Monday, December 07, 2009

Why the Wait Time Increase?

There has always been discussions on wait times among waiting families, and every time the wait has increased there have been myriad explanations to what was the root cause -- changing CCAA personnel, Olympics, implementation of the Hague Agreement, the Hunan scandal. Analyzing the data, however, shows that only one of the above explanations has any data to support it, and the others, while possible, have no empirical evidence to back them up.

This article will focus on the wait times between January 2002 and December 2008. The data that will be considered are orphanage submission rates (as compiled from Provincial finding ads), international adoption rates (provided by various country websites), and DTC wait times as retrieved from A-P-C, the Yahoo newsgroup dedicated to waiting families.

The wait time between DTC ("Dossier to China") and referral was thirteen months in January 2002, and ended in December 2002 at fourteen months. For the entire year, the wait time remained basically unchanged, with nearly 10,200 children being referred world-wide.

At the beginning of 2003, the wait time remained at fourteen months. However, beginning in August 2003, wait times began to fall as referrals accelerated. In that month, families who had submitted their dossiers in August 2002 received their referrals, dropping the wait time to 12 months. The following month, September 2003, wait times again decreased to 11 months. October 2003 saw the wait drop to only eight months, where it remained for almost nine months, to June 2004, when it dropped again, reaching a low of six months in September 2004. The wait time remained between six and seven months until November 2005.

Since total adoptions world-wide for 2003 remained basically unchanged from 2002 (10,290), the explanation for the fall in wait times in 2003 can be found on the "supply" side of the equation. 2003 saw dramatic increases in orphanage submission rates. Guangdong Province, for example, saw submissions increase 34% from 2002 to 2003, an increase of 747 files. Hunan Province saw its submissions increase 20%, for a net increase of 439 files. Hubei Province, as another example, saw adoptions increase 37%. In the face of steady international demand, the increased submission rates across China resulted in wait times declining from fourteen months at the beginning of 2003 to eight months by its end.

The increase in orphanage submissions can be attributed to several factors, but a significant portion of it, at least in Hunan Province, can be traced to the introduction of baby-buying programs in at least six orphanages. These six orphanages -- Changning, Hengdong, Hengnan, Hengshan, and Hengyang County -- made contact with a trafficking family from Guangdong Province in December 2002. Although court testimony indicated that these orphanages had incentive programs in place before that time, the Guangdong traffickers added a substantial number of children to these six orphanages. Collectively, the four orphanages doing adoptions in 2002 saw submissions increase from 257 adoptions in 2002 to 406 in 2003, a 58% increase.

In 2004, demand from international countries began to increase, as families began to take notice of the short wait times. Although international demand increased to a little over 13,300 adoptions in 2004 (an increase of 29% over 2003), orphanage submissions flattened, with no significant increase occurring in 2004. Thus, in 2004, like 2002, demand once again approximated the supply submitted by the orphanages, and wait times trended lower, from eight months in January 2004 to six months in December. Interestingly, in 2003 the wait time began to drop in September, when the record number of children submitted in March 2003 were referred. Wait times reached their low in September 2004, again when the children submitted in March 2004 were referred. March was the largest submission month in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and this spike in submissions following Chinese New Years had its impact at the end of 2003 and 2004.

Total adoptions from China increased again in 2005, reaching almost 14,400 in 2005, an 8% increase over 2004. But orphanage submissions began to decline. In seven Provinces (Anhui, Chongqing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hubei, Hunan, and Jiangxi), total submissions in 2005 fell from over 12,800 in 2004 to 11,318 in 2005, a drop of nearly 12%. With the eight percent increase in demand, and the twelve percent decrease in supply, wait times began to increase in 2005. Starting at six months in January, wait times upticked to seven months in July and was eight months in November 2005.

There is little question that wait times were increasing in the second half of 2005, and it is likely that they would have returned to twelve months sometime in 2006 or 2007. There is also little doubt that at some point an equilibrium would have again been reached, as demand declined in response to the increased wait times. In all likelihood, the program would have returned to a 12-14 month wait, as it saw in 2002.

But November 2005 saw the Hunan scandal break, and the dynamics of the program were irreversibly altered.

There is little question that the Hunan scandal had a dramatic impact on orphanage submissions, not just a result of the closure of Hunan Province from December 2005 until April 2006, but in the fallout from the scandal going forward.

Orphanage submissions fell from 5,400 in the last six months of 2004 to 4,642 in the seven Provinces in this analysis. A significant percentage of that decline can be attributed to the CCAA's decision to shut Hunan Province to new submissions, which effectively reduced that Province's submissions from 1,166 in the last six months of 2005 to only 505 in the first six months of 2006, a decrease of 661 submissions. Thus, a majority (58%) of the decline in submissions in the first half of 2006 can be attributed directly to the Hunan scandal.

That the decline can be specifically pegged to the scandal itself can be seen by looking at the submission rates of the orphanages involved in the scandal. In the weeks leading up to the arrests of the six orphanage directors on November 11, 2005, they submitted an average of over ten files per week. Submissions from these six orphanage all but ended following the scandal, with submissions falling from a combined 534 in 2005 to only seventy-two in 2006, thirty-three in 2007 and thirty-one in 2008.

The effect of removing Hunan from the adoption pool between December 2005 and April 2006 had an immediate and dramatic effect on wait times. In January 2006 the wait time increased to nine months, longer than any month since November 2003. By April, when a majority of Hunan's orphanages were given the green light to resume adoptions (the "Hunan Six" were not allowed to resume submissions until September), the wait time had increased to eleven months. With an increasing number of families submitting files for adoption, and submission rates in the six Hunan orphanages all but gone, China's program sought to find a new equilibrium.

The significant decrease in adoption submissions wasn't isolated to just the six implicated orphanages in Hunan, but were seen in many other orphanages as well. In Hunan Province, for example, Changde, Changsha #1, Huaihua, and Yiyang and many others saw steep declines. A look at their submission rates confirms that these decreases have their origin in the Hunan scandal also.

Whereas Changde, Changsha#1, Huaihua and the Yiyang orphanages had submitted 175 children in the six months between July and December 2005 (9 per week), following the Hunan scandal their numbers dropped to 124 for all of 2006, or 2.4 per week. These numbers declined even further in 2007 to an average of 1.4 per week, or 73 for the entire year.

This pattern is seen in other areas of China as well. Although a deeper analysis of just which orphanages saw dramatic changes following the Hunan scandal is available on our subscription blog, a few examples will illustrate how November 11, 2005 becomes a significant reflection point all across China.

In Guangdong, many orphanages saw their adoption numbers collapse simultaneous with the Hunan scandal. Two orphanages that stand out as having experienced substantial declines between 2005 and 2006 are the Qujiang and Suixi orphanages, which saw adoption numbers decline 79% and 52% respectively. Other orphanages in Guangdong that saw substantial declines include Gaozhou, Huazhou, Maonan, Shaoguan, Sanshui, and Zhanjiang. Collectively, Guangdong's numbers declined from 2,645 submissions in 2005 to 1,889 in 2006.

Jiangxi Province saw similar patterns. Fenyi, Fuzhou, Gao'An, Guangchang, Jianxin, and Nanfeng, among others, saw adoption rates cut almost in half, from 798 adoptions in 2005 to 424 adoptions in 2006. These four orphanages constituted 70% of the decline across Jiangxi Province between 2005 and 2006, when overall submissions fell from 3,027 to 2,494 children.

Upcoming analysis on our subscription blog will detail more fully which orphanages in each Province showed declines, and provide detailed explanations as to why. The first Province to be considered will be Chongqing, followed by Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Hunan.

In summary -- Observations that wait times were increasing in 2005 are correct, but mis-attribute the increase to incorrect assumptions. The increasing popularity experienced by the China program in 2003 and 2004 led to increased submissions into the China program in 2005. Although orphanage submissions hit records in 2003, resulting in wait time declines in late 2003 and early 2004, submissions stabilized in 2004 and 2005. As additional families entered the program in early 2005, demand bumped up against supply so that wait times bottomed in March 2005 and slowly began to increase to historical norms by December 2005.

The Hunan scandal, with its resulting closure of Hunan Province for four months, and the collapse in adoptions from many other orphanages, created the "perfect storm" of high demand and falling supply. This resulted in the stunning rise in wait times seen over the past three years.

Thus, to understand the increase in wait times one must look at the impact of the Hunan scandal on orphanage submissions. All other speculations to explain the increased wait -- from Hague implementation, the Olympics, or any of the many other rumored explanations -- fail to account for the dramatic change in direction that occurred on November 11, 2005.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean that orphanages took note of the Hunan scandal and stopped baby buying practices? So the children now in orphanages are perhaps more likely to be legitimate orphans?

Research-China.Org said...

In many instances that is the case. However, those orphanages that stopped their programs could restart at any time (like Changde in Hunan). Also, with no program those orphanages really aren't involved in the IA program any more. Thus, a significant percentage of the orphanages that do adopt large numbers of children are those that still have baby-buying programs in place.


Anonymous said...

I follow very carefully all of your posts. And I've been doing so for a couple of years now.

I may be missing something, but I'm afraid I must say I can not see what is new in your latest post. You've been developing all those subjects and figures already in previous ones, Brian, haven't you?
So, even if the subject remains interesting, what is the point of keeping rehearsing?

Research-China.Org said...

For long-time readers like yourself, there probably isn't much new material. But many people are new on the scene, or have not read much about this subject, so I wanted to re-enforce the material from over the last few years. Some families continue to believe that the wait is increasing due to quotas from the CCAA, the Olympics, implementation of Hague restrictions, etc. I felt a single article showing none of those reasons are impacting wait times was needed.


Anonymous said...

"National Adoption Month and Intercountry Adoption (Assistant Secretary Jacobs op-ed, November 2009)

By Janice L. Jacobs - Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs

November was National Adoption Month, when hundreds of events were held around the country to finalize adoptions of children in foster care and to celebrate adoptive families. Last year, families in the United States adopted over 12,500 children from around the world and more than 70,000 children domestically. U.S. citizens adopt more children internationally than the rest of the world combined. I believe this is a testament to the love and generosity of the American people. "

Assuming the US adopted 17433 IA in 2008 - That is a drop of close 5000 children. If you take out Guatimala ( 4000 +/-) and the balance of the world is about the same- it looks like the China Program took another 25% hit in referals.

Fewer children = longer wait time

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the research and your well written post. My wife and I have been waiting for 13 months now (seems like a short time compared to families that have waited 40+ months!) It is difficult to wait, and to feel like we have no control.

It is also interesting to note the wait time continues to increase in a linear fashion even today. I'm wondering when it will peak and come back down. That is the other difficulty -- not knowing exactly how long this is going to take. Will our total wait time be 41 months? 36 months? 50+ months? Nobody appears to know... sad.

Anonymous said...

Brian there is an obvious thing that no one seems to mention in this context.

Wasnt't there a change of high level party officials in China that predated, by a short time, the big changes in waits? I seem to remember that the premier who had been an adopted person himself, was replaced by someone who had no personal interest in adoption.

Research-China.Org said...

Changes in leadership could, of course, have an impact on China's program. The problem is that there is no evidence that any change were made. Directors of orphanages continued to be pushed to submit as many children as possible. The February 2006 meeting did result in one significant change, however. With the emphasis on SN children, there seems to have been a sharp increase in SN submissions. What we don't see is any communication that there was to be a concerted change in policy or direction. Thus, I believe that changes in leadership had little impact on wait times or the decrease in submissions. While some people continue to maintain that the number of adoptions is being dictated by the central government (a limit or quota), there is no evidence to substantiate that claim, and abundant evidence pointing in other directions.