Monday, January 17, 2011

Police Reports -- Why They Are Important, and Why They Are Not

On our subscription blog we have an essay on what the value of so-called police reports really is, and the answer may surprise you.

As families seek to obtain pre-adoption history for their child, a common piece of documentation that is seemingly important is the so-called "police report". This one-page document is usually created soon after a child is found, and supposedly details the events surrounding a child's finding. It is almost always used by the orphanage as the basis for all future adoption paperwork, including the "certificate of abandonment" required to process the child internationally.

In my research, I have learned that "police reports" vary widely from orphanage to orphanage. Some orphanages have pre-printed forms with data fields for information required by the CCAA for adoption -- Name, gender, birth date, finding date, etc. These pre-printed forms usually have three blanks areas that are filled in by the finder, and then testified as to the truthfulness by the orphanage director and the police official.

Other orphanages simply have the finder write down what happened on a piece of orphanage stationary. While the pre-printed forms are largely machine printed, these forms are largely hand-written.

It is a common assumption among adoptive families that when a finding occurs, that the police are notified and an officer is dispatched to the finding site to do an investigation. This belief is usually supported by the "police report" itself, which often uses words such as "the Emergency police '110' [China's version of the U.S. "911" police] were called, and officer Wang was sent to investigate the finding." Most adoption paperwork contains statements to the effect that "The police searched for two months, and were unable to locate the birth parents of this child." As a result of these and similar statements, many adoptive families assume that the existence of a police report verifies the underlying facts about their child's finding. But such a conclusion is usually not justified.