Monday, April 02, 2012

The Dark Side of China's "Aging Out Orphan" Program

9/24/13 Update: Since the publication of this essay, China's "aging out" program has grown.  Director Pei, retired director of the Luoyang orphanage, is now the in-country liason for China's "orphan hosting" program, whereby supposedly older, aging out children are invited to travel to the U.S. to live with American families, with the hope that these families will decide to adopt them. Director Pei has begun working with director Zhou of the Fuzhou orphanage in Jiangxi Province, recruiting older children from their areas to participate in these programs.  This "Orphan Hosting" program has been embraced by New Horizons, who is working with director Pei,  CCAI, America World Adoption, Lifeline, and other agencies. The most recent fabricated "aging out" adoption was completed in June 2013.

4/24/12 Update:  The past three weeks have apparently seen a lot of activity at WACAP, with several key staff members rumored to have left the agency.  Additionally, families have come forward reporting similar experiences with other orphanages, including one assistant orphanage director of a large Jiangxi orphanage who allegedly laundered his own daughter for international adoption.  The U.S. State Department is rumored to be looking into the allegations presented in this article, although I have no first-hand confirmation of that.  

4/4/12 Update:  One of the families profiled in this article has decided to lend her own voice to the story.  "Debbie" writes an immensely popular blog here, and posted about her story this morning.


I didn't want to post this article publicly. I have been pretty much in a "zen" place, posting the in-depth articles about China's international adoption program to my subscription blog.  I have known about the issues discussed in this article for a while, but felt that families wanting to know more could subscribe to our blog.  This kept the "blow back" from waiting families and others at a minimum, since subscription blog readers are composed of families who have deep experience in China's program, and could accept the stories and discoveries without too much emotional anxiety.

After it was posted to our subscription blog, other families stepped forward, and the gravity of the situation became obvious, and too important to remain "hidden" from other adoptive families. So, after much consideration, I felt that waiting families and those who have already brought home one of these children needed to know the potential problems that exist in their adoptions.

The sad reality is that as the number of healthy, young children coming into China's orphanages has declined, waiting families have often migrated to China's Special Needs and Special Focus program. Orphanages have responded to this increased interest by inventing creative means for obtaining children to satisfy this new demand.  The following article focuses on one well-known orphanage, but evidence shows that this program is wide-spread (see related links at the conclusion of this article).

I contacted WACAP for their input, and they responded with a lengthy response, insisting that I correct my "misunderstandings". I informed them that while I appreciated their perspective, the information in the following article originated from first-hand accounts of adoptive families and others. I did tell WACAP that I would be happy to post their comment at the end of the article, but they declined my offer. I personally have no ax to grind with WACAP, and appreciate the difficult position they find themselves in when dealing with China. They are used in this article merely as the unfortunate example to illustrate an extensive and deep-rooted problem; certainly other agencies are equally involved.

I have long ago given up on the hope that China's program will change, its abuses end. Therefore, this article is simply a "red flag" to prospective adoptive families to learn from the sad experience of these families, and a host of others, to be aware of potential deceptions and abuses. For families that have already adopted an "aging out" child (Although this article focuses on adoptees older than ten years old, the problem encompasses children of all ages), be alert to red flags in your own relationships and conversations with your adopted child. This article will hopefully shed a bright light on these deceptions, and protect future birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive families from entering agreements blindly.

If you have a similar story to those recounted below, please feel free to leave a comment, or contact me at BrianStuy@Research-China.Org.  Your privacy will be completely protected.  

Brian H. Stuy


Luoyang City Orphanage, Henan Province

The Dark Side of China's "Aging Out" Program

In the Fall of 2008, WACAP adoption agency began to send e-mails out to many adoption groups pleading for a new group of older orphans who needed families. "They are all listed as healthy," the broadcast e-mail read, "They are in danger of turning 14 and 'ageing (sic) out.' This means they may have no support or resources and have to live on their own in China - if they are not adopted before they turn 14." This particular group would become known as the first "Journey of Hope" program through WACAP, one of the largest China adoption programs in the U.S. Emails went out and word spread through the Yahoo groups discussing WACAPs new program, which included the Luoyang orphanage adoption group, where adoptive families were advocating for children "soon to be aging out" of that orphanage, which comprised the majority of the children on WACAP's list. One Luoyang adoptive parent wrote of "a program that was to get older kids adopted. Perhaps there is a new effort to get the older kids paperwork ready and have files in at CCAA. Maybe, they are being added to CCAA's new 'shared' list. Thirty or so agencies are now being 'tested' with the new 'shared' list of older or sn kids."

Observers of China's international adoption program have observed that the program has "morphed" over the years, with particularly sharp changes occurring after the Hunan scandal of 2005. Not only did the number of children coming into China's orphanages experience a sharp decline following December 2005, but the composition of those foundlings also changed. Whereas historically more than 95% of foundlings had been extremely young healthy females, following the scandal the percentage of male and SN foundlings began to sharply climb. Today, around a third of all Chinese adoptions are male, and over half are Special Needs. To take an illustrative example, between 2000 and 2011, Guangdong Province submitted 2,343 boys for adoption out of a total of 23,032 children, or roughly 10% boys. However, that average masks a substantial shift that occurred after 2005. In the six years between 2000 and 2005, Guangdong Province orphanages submitted 14,266 children for adoption, of which 488 were boys (3.4%). In the six years between 2006 and 2011, Guangdong orphanages submitted 8,766 files for adoption, of which 1,855 were for boys (21%). The situation is similar when it comes to special needs submissions: Between 2000 and 2005, 218 SN children were submitted by the Guangdong orphanages, representing 1.5% of all adoptions from that Province. That number increased to 822 between 2006 and 2011, raising the average to 9.4%. A majority (78%) of these children were found after 2005.

This kind of demographic shift is typical, if not more pronounced, in the other Provinces as well.

With that shift has come an increase in awareness of "Special focus" children, including those in danger of "aging out". Attentive observers rightfully wonder where these children came from, and why the sudden apparent shift in cultural norms that have resulted in such a dramatic increase in male children being made available for adoption.

There was an overwhelming response from the adoption community to WACAP's publicity of their "Journey of Hope" children, and the majority of the children were soon matched, but not all. More than a year passed and there were still children waiting from the program. Some of the children had been moved to the shared list and other Luoyang children were beginning to show up on individual lists. Some children had already been home for a year. The children left behind were communicating with those who had already found families, questioning when they too might have a family. The pleas of one particular child, "Jonathan", pulled on the heartstrings of "Sue" (not her real name) as he continued to wait. Jonathan was telling his friends who were already in America that if he did not have a family soon, the orphanage would kick him out. "Someone help me get adopted," he pleaded to his friends. Word spread and Sue wondered what would happen to him, so she called WACAP and inquired if she could actually bring him home.

In 2010, Sue and her family would travel to Luoyang and formally adopted Jonathan into their family.

The next few months went well, and although there were language barriers and other communication issues, Sue felt that things were progressing as well as expected. But one thing bothered Sue: Her thirteen year-old son had a developed physique, and was sprouting a mustache.

Sue began to ask her son if he was really thirteen, and he assured her that he was. "Are you sure you are thirteen?" she pushed. As he had an upcoming birthday, she wanted to make sure that the celebration was purposeful. But Jonathan exhibited no excitement about the celebration, and in fact acted like the whole episode embarrassed him. Sue found this puzzling. "Perhaps he has never had a birthday celebration," she wondered, "the poor boy." Again she asked him about his age. "Can you at least give me what Chinese sign you were born under?" she pleaded. One afternoon, after pushing him yet again to give her some clue as to when he was actually born, he responded, "China told me never to tell. China said I could never tell my real birthday."

Sue was stunned. "You are our child now, they can't do anything to you." Her son understood, but was still terrified to say anything. "No, I can't tell, I can't tell, China said to never tell." No matter how hard Sue pushed, Jonathan would not relent.

A few weeks later, Jonathan initiated the conversation. "Can China get me in trouble?" he asked. No, was Sue's answer, you are safe from China. "OK," Jonathan replied, "then I am 17, not 13."

Sue did not know what to think. She had gone to China to adopt a boy that was ostensibly a young teen, and now she realized that she had adopted a near-adult. Who had known this? Her agency? The orphanage? Jonathan continued: "You know, I am not alone. There are lots and lots of my friends that have the same story." Indeed, witnesses in the orphanage remember Director Pei, when he heard in 2008 that WACAP was coming to start up the "Journey of Hope" program, going out with the orphanage van and coming back a short time later with two teenage kids to put in the program.

Sue went to retrieve Jonathan's paperwork received at his adoption. The paperwork says your birth mother is dead. No, she is alive. It said your grand-father was old and ailing. No, he is not. He is alive and well. And then Sue recalled a conversation at the school conference a few months earlier. Jonathan's teacher mentioned how neat it was that he could still talk to his brother in China. Sue assumed the teacher was confused, as she had no knowledge of a relationship with family members, especially a brother. Surely the teacher misunderstood. Sue was wrong.

It was in that moment that Jonathan decided to open up and tell his story. "My birth family visited me while I was in the orphanage. I have a photo we took as a family a week before you came to adopt me." Jonathan retrieved the secret photo and showed it to Sue. She observed how fit and happy the family looked, not at all like the "old and ailing" grandparents she had read about in Jonathan's pre-adoption descriptions. Jonathan explained that his birth family was against the idea of Jonathan going to the U.S., out of fear they would never see him again. Jonathan, however, was excited. This was his chance to become rich and famous.

But if Jonathan's birth family was against him being adopted, how did he end up in the orphanage?

This question was posed to Jonathan's birth grandfather, who was the individual that had relinquished Jonathan to the orphanage. When asked why he had turned his grandson to the orphanage, he recounted how one day he and his wife were approached by Luoning County Civil Affairs officials. They started the conversation by observing that if he and his wife were having any troubles raising their grandson, that the officials could help arrange for their grandson to be taken to the orphanage, and the orphanage would help raise him. "If your grandson goes into the orphanage," they were promised, "he will get a good education and get a good job." Jonathan would later tell us that it wasn't until 2009, just before he was adopted to the United States, that his grandparents learned that he would be leaving Luoyang. At no point during the "pitch" did the Civil Affairs officials notify him or his grandparents that he would be leaving China, and when his birth family learned of that fact two years later, they were extremely worried and upset.

"Do you believe he really will come back one day and take care of you?" we asked the sixty-five year old spry and energetic grandfather. "Yes," was his reply.

Jonathan's story is consistent with others from Luoyang. "Kate" adopted her daughter from Luoyang in 2010, along with a deaf child from the Beijing orphanage. Kate's Luoyang daughter also opened up and revealed that her birth family had also been approached by officials who discussed relinquishing her. Two days before Kate finalized the adoption, and when Kate was already in the Province to finalize her adoption, the Luoyang orphanage still did not have the relinquishment paperwork signed by the birth family.   To increase the pressure on the grandmother to sign the required paperwork, the orphanage took Kate's daughter on a two-hour drive to her grandmother's house.  The orphanage needed the grandmother to sign papers relinquishing her grand-daughter so that the adoption could be finalized.  With Kate in the area, time was running out.

This trip re-traumatized Kate's daughter, forcing her to experience the pain of losing her birth family all over again.  Kate's daughter was fairly sure her Grandmother did not want her to be adopted and taken away.

As Kate's Luoyang daughter told her the story, Kate felt a familiar sense of outrage, for her Beijing daughter had also told her that she had been brought to that orphanage as a six-year old under similar pretenses. Kate's Beijing daughter was sent to a Beijing school for the deaf, which she attended during the week.  Since there were no classes held on the weekend, Kate's daughter stayed in the Beijing #2 orphanage on the weekend.  Kate's daughter recounted how her parents would frequently visit her, bringing her treats as she went to school in the Beijing school. She would return home for Chinese New Years, but otherwise remained at the orphanage for most of the year. She had lived two hours outside Beijing, in a rural farming community. One day, without any warning or preparation, Kate's Beijing daughter was adopted by Kate, leaving her family to wonder what ever happened to their daughter.  The Beijing #2 orphanage apparently also raised Kate's daughter's age from eleven to nearly fourteen in order to take advantage of the speed with which "aging out" children are adopted by Western families. 

WACAP has frequently told adoptive families concerned with hearing such stories from their children that kids often fantasize about their birth families, supposedly unable to understand why they were "abandoned". But Luoyang's recruitment program was witnessed first-hand by Michael Melsi, a twenty-something American who started volunteering in the Luoyang orphanage in 2006 as an English language instructor. Michael spent most of his time in the Luoyang orphanage on the fourth and six floors of the orphanage, among the teenagers in Luoyang's "Special Focus" program. There, he befriended most of the children waiting to be adopted from the waiting child lists of WACAP, CCAI, and other agencies.

At the beginning of his time in Luoyang, Michael observed that “it was pretty apparent that the kids had some kind of distant relatives that were involved in their lives to some degree, never in a million years at that time would I have thought that they actually had parents or close relatives.  But it was clear that even though they were in an orphanage, they were from a community where they still had ties.”

That point was driven home during Spring Festival 2009. Michael assumed this would be a sad time for the kids in the orphanage, so he arranged to bring the kids some treats and activities to help celebrate the Chinese “Christmas”. When he arrived at the orphanage, he found that very few of the older kids (older than 6) were there. Michael wondered where they all had gone, and asked the orphanage staff where the kids had disappeared to. At first he was told the children had been sent to spend the festival with area families, who had volunteered to help give the kids a bit of “normal lives”. That did not sound right to Michael, so he pushed further, and was eventually told that the kids had gone home to their extended birth families (aunts, uncles, grandparents) to spend the holidays with them.

When WACAP formed the “Journey of Hope” program in 2008, Michael noticed that some of the older kids were being sent out of the orphanage and disappearing. When he asked the orphanage staff and other children about this, he was told that those kids had “selfish relatives” who were refusing to allow the adoption of their kids who they were unwilling to care for. Thus, the kids were being forced to leave the orphanage. Michael researched where some of his “kids” had ended up, and found that they had returned to their birth families. It soon became apparent in several cases that women who were initially said to be "aunts" were actually the children's birth mothers. When Michael asked the birth families why their kids had ended up in the Luoyang orphanage, they reluctantly told him that they had understood that the orphanage would provide for the expenses of raising their children. Furthermore, the birth parents felt it would offer their children the opportunity to get a better education and live in the city, which they believed would provide the children with a better life in the future. When the orphanage began to pressure them to sign documents relinquishing parental rights to their own children, they had refused.

Michael became increasingly concerned with what he was seeing in the Luoyang orphanage, and contacted several adoptive families to inform them of the situation. He also decided to contact WACAP directly, and outlined many of his findings and concerns. Within two days, Michael was contacted by the orphanage and informed that he would not be permitted to return to the orphanage, with officials citing concerns that he was a carrier of swine flu.


Director Pei, the Luoyang orphanage director, presented WACAP with a plan that he was formulating. Although no longer the orphanage director (the orphanage saw a change of directors in 2010), nevertheless in late 2011 Pei contacted WACAP and informed them that he was interested in guiding a group of relatives of children adopted through WACAP's "Journey of Hope" program to the United States.

WACAP has had a long history with the Luoyang orphanage, going back to the early 1990s when the agencies head, Janice Neilson, formed a mutually beneficial relationship with the orphanage director, Pei Zhong Hai. Over the course of the next seventeen years, WACAP arranged funding for the Luoyang orphanage, and Pei provided children for adoption.

So it was that WACAP contacted "Debbie", the adoptive mother of one of the "Journey of Hope" girls, and asked if they would be agreeable to a visit by their daughter's biological Uncle in their home. Of course this came as a huge shock to Debbie and her husband, who could not understand how the people described in their daughter's adoption paperwork as being too poor to care for their daughter were now suddenly able to afford to fly to the U.S. and tour around with their daughter's orphanage director. They were angry, confused and very frustrated as the realization came to them that they had been deceived by the orphanage to begin with. They informed WACAP that they felt very uncomfortable with the situation, and WACAP informed Director Pei that Debbie and the other families were not welcoming of his proposal.

Debbie realizes now that she should have noticed the red-flags surrounding the "aging out" kids earlier, but chose to ignore what she described as disquieting clues. "All the them had the same stories," she remembers. And indeed, a perusal of WACAP's 2009 "Journey of Hope" listing bears this out: "WCL, Contest winner and artist. Healthy 12 year old boy. . . .He has been at the orphanage for over three years. He remembers nothing about his birth parents or where he lived before the orphanage." "XL. Violinist. Healthy 12 year old girl. . . . She has no memory of her birth family." "HL. Athlete. Healthy 12 year-old boy. . . When asked about his memories before he arrived at the orphanage he said he has no memories before that time." "GBL, Basketball player and jogger. Healthy 12 year old girl. . . . She has no memory of her birth family. "YHL, Performer, Healthy 12 year-old girl. . . . When asked about her birth parents, she said she does not remember anything."

When asked about these children, Jonathan admits that he is aware of several who know full well who their birth families are, and some of them were among the kids admonishing him to remain quiet. He recounts how in March 2007, the orphanage sent the van to pick him and the other children recruited by the Luoning County Civil Affairs Bureau up. On the day of the "pick up", all of the families were notified to bring their kids to the county Civil Affairs Bureau, where the the orphanage van waited. On the morning Jonathan was picked up, he was accompanied by ten or eleven other children, ranging in ages from a few months to over seventeen years old, mostly boys. All were allowed to say goodbye to their birth families before being loaded into the orphanage van and taken away to what most, if not all, felt was an orphanage education school.

In January 2011, the CCAA commended the Luoyang orphanage, describing them as a "Model Welfare Institute for International adoption in 2010", the year that Jonathan and his friends were adopted abroad. The Luoyang orphanage director boasted that "There is no trifling with international adoptions. The leaders of the Civil Affairs Bureau and the officers of our orphanage have attached great importance to the working of international adoption, from the preparation of the finding ads to the adoption paper work, to when the kids are sent into the arms of adoptive families, including the adoptive families returning back to visit the orphanage. All of these works were overseen by the director, with very carefully attention, and well done by following the rules step by step. This ensures that there was no mistake of any of those kids sent for international adoption. It also brought a new world for the growth of those kids."

Sue and the other families would disagree. While some of the families have been informed by their adoptive children of the truth behind their adoptions, many of the other children still urge Jonathan to remain quiet. "Don't tell! We were told we can never tell." Thus, there is little doubt that many families of Luoyang's "orphans" don't realize that their child, along with their birth family, really expect that this is simply a "study abroad" program. Already, stories of adoption disruptions and turmoil are being recounted as the children grow frustrated that they are not being given the material gifts that they had been promised. Unfortunately, Luoyang's program is in no way unique, as many orphanages across China have seen similar spikes in "aging out" children needing to be adopted.

The issues go beyond simply raising a child under false pretenses. Once an adoption, even one performed under false premises, is completed, the child becomes a legal beneficiary of the adoptive parents estate, for example. Then there are the issues surrounding the true nature of the relationship between these children and their adoptive families. As Sue recounted, she could see the stress of lying on her son's face as he repeatedly covered up the truth from her probing questions. One day, he just got tired of lying.

Sue articulates a cautionary note to families assuming that these "aging out" and other tales of woe are accurate:

People who adopt these aging out kids need to go into this knowing full well that it is very possible that this child is significantly older, already aged out, it is very possible that their birth dates were changed, it is very possible that they have birth family still there and that there is more to the story. It is not just the cut-and-dry ‘this orphan needs a home.’ You need to be sensitive to the question of whether an industry is being created by these aging out kids that you are feeding into when really they don’t need to be coming here.”

Related articles:"Promises, Promises!"
"China's New 'Orphan Program'" (Subscription blog article)


Anonymous said...

Excellent and insightful piece, Brian. As the mother of a daughter who was "aging out," I can share that everything about her records was false. The ongoing problem is that since she was so conditioned to lie by the orphanage staff, she lies chronically now-to teachers, family, and friends-and has a very distorted perception of what truth is. She has way more going on than "typical" attachment issues, and it has completely turned our world upside down. I've heard the same from 4 other parents of older adoptees. I would never, ever recommend adopting an older child, under any circumstance. Thank you Brian for giving us some validation that we are not bad parents, but that we have adopted severely damaged children.

Anonymous said...

Wow Brian, excellent and very revealing blog post! I hope people can start to see the very obvious clues in front of them. All of these kids who have no memory of their past?? What agency could miss this?! Did they intentionally just look the other way or were they the ones who actually made up this story on paper and guided the kids into such a twisted future of lies.
Mostly this would be an immigration scandal and should be reported to the USCIS.

Anonymous said...

As one of the families interviewed for this article, I struggle with "where to go from here". I get easily angry over the fact that my two older adopted children were part of this "ring" and as they have unfairly and harshly faced the struggles of a new family, new culture, new EVERYTHING (not to mention the difficulty it has put our family thru), I shudder to think that had there not been corruption and greed in Luoyang, my kids would likely never have ended up in the orphanage and would most likely be living their lives happily in the only families they knew in China. But instead, I am forced to deal with the brokenness this has caused them.

I am MOST angry over the fact that WACAP was told about much of this beforehand...and completely chose to ignore it. We may not ever be able to correct the corruption in China, but it saddens me deeply that we don't have more integrity here.

But I hold tightly to:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." Romans 8:28

Excellent article, Brian.

Thank you,

Laurie McLean said...

Wow. Wondering how the US state dept. will deal with this reality. Are these adoption really legal, given the false info at so many points in the process?

Anonymous said...

As someone who lives with the reality of all of this every day, thank you for bringing this to light. I cannot begin to say how complicated this whole issue is. As hard as it is, I am thankful that our son "Jonathan" was brave enough to tell the truth. I hope by bringing it to light that positive changes can be made, families will know they aren't alone and anyone who is considering an older child will go into it with eyes wide open.


Jessica said...

As a mother heading to China for our 3rd adoption, I thank you for finding the truths.

Anonymous said...

We live in a country that does not permit adoption of children who are this old. Although we are not adopting again (we have one daughter adopted nearly 5 years ago at nearly three), we went through a lot of trauma with attachment, anger, grief in our family with a little girl who was considered in Australia an older child, and hence more likely to have 'special needs' due to the long period she spent in an institution. I have learnt so much more about China and adoption since then, and the complex issues that we face as the parents of children from China.

It is outrageous that this is happening, I send you families my best wishes.

Anonymous said...

In an effort to win over the respect of the Russian government and continue to access adoptions with Russia, WACAP was successful in suing Torry Hansen for returning her 7 year old adopted son. Hansen now will be forced to pay child support for the child she felt was misresented.

Ironic isn't this? WACAP wins the suit against Hansen who felt victimized and yet now we hear more people claiming they are raising kids who have been misrepresented by WACAP!
If I spent over 20,000 dollars to adopt a near-adult or to adopt a child who already had a family in what appears an immigration or education scheme, I would be suing WACAP.

All of the victims of misrepresentation should sue, including the children who are the most victimized in these stories. The Chinese families should also understand what actually happened to their kids and they too should sue.

Agencies should be held to the highest standards of the law. There is enough evidence to prove that WACAP was very close with this orphanage and very much aware of where kids were coming from. WACAP purchased a large vehicle for Louyang orphanage. Was this the white van that the kids recall being the vehicle that took them from their families?

Brian, I hope you connect the many victims of this case. Power comes with numbers!!

I hope you are also aware that you may be the next target for WACAP. Anyone who dares to expose truth may be slapped with a lawsuit of some sort by them. That is how they keep people afraid and keep business flowing!!

Barbara said...

The gold standard has corroded under Brian's astute observations over all these years.
The Chinese Government does as it likes. DOS/USCIS has no authority to make China Hague Compliant or un-corrupt. USG options are to close the program or not. A very drastic and unpopular action that would create a political nightmare for them. APs options are to sue agency and/or file complaints with agency and Hague complaint Process and complain directly to CCCWA.
Given delicate US/ China diplomacy. how likely is it DOS is going to turn this into an issue any time soon?
Best to avoid these programs with "generalized family amnesia" on the part of older children.
Sad, but as usual, greed and corruption will be tolerated so long as APs keep stepping up despite warnings.

Anonymous said...

Wow and Wow! As an adoptive parent four times I find complete comfort in knowing people like Brian are out there trying to shed light on "dark" issues indeed! This is horrible in every sense for every person involved. Thank you for the courage these families had in sharing their stories - it will undoubtedly help some other young children sleep easier tonight if they are able to unload this huge burden.

Suzanne said...

First let me say how horrible this must be for the involved families. We cling to any information that we get about our children when we are adopting and it would be awful to find out that we had been lied to, and that when adopting a child, it was totally a different true story than what we were given as the reason for this child needing a family. I really hope that people can be aware of yet another possibility of things to consider. However, as the mom of a child adopted from China one day before her 14th birthday, I don't believe that all children who are submitted come with stories such as these. I don't believe that older child adoption is easy for the family or the child, but I do believe that good can come of it. My daughter will have some struggles, but is actually doing quite well, and she is receiving medical care that was very much needed and wouldn't have been received in China. It will truly make a huge difference for her in her life.

Jocelyn said...

I am very glad you wrote this article. I found it very insightful and interesting to say the least. That being said what you write about here is NOT the case for everyone.

We have two adopted boys. One adopted at 7 and the older adopted through WACAP at 10.5. I can tell you that both of my boys are fine. They have attached well and we have no reason not to believe what they share with us.

Our adoption of our son Jack through WACAP was a great experience. They were very up front with us. We knew of all his SN before he came home and he is the light of our lives.

I am so very sad for the families that have had bad experiences with older child adoptions, but as a parent of not one but two Older adoptions I am a huge advocate for these kids.

I would really like to know the ratio of people who have issues and those who don't. I don't know if you have those stats or not, but I think you would find that these issues you write about (which I acknowledge are serious heart breaking issues) are not the norm. I can also accept that fact that parents who are going through these situations don't care if it is the norm, because it has taken over their lives. I feel for those families I really do.

As a vet in the adoption world I know that very bad things can happen. I have seen little babies adopted at 6 months grow to have severe RAD and older kids never have an issue.

Each child and their situation is unique and I think that is the one thing you forgot to mention. It is always dangerous to make broad sweeping statements as it can cause people who could make a wonder family for an older child walk away when there is not always a reason too.

Just as one of your commenters said "I would never, ever recommend adopting an older child, under any circumstance. " This statement breaks my heart. Because older kids need families too.

But thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing and digging into this "dark side" of older adoptions. It's obviously very important for PAP's to have as much research as possible to make their own decision on adoption and I feel bad for the AP's that have been deceived. However, let's not forget this may be the exception and that there are still many older children, who are truly orphaned and abandoned, hoping for a forever family. We adopted a 12-year-old SN girl from the Shanghai "Journey of Hope" camp in 2010 and know several other families who also adopted older kids from the same camp and there is no indication or warning flags of deception in those children's history. I too was taken shaken by one of the commenters that said they would "never, ever recommend adopting an older child, under any circumstance." It's the deceptive orphanages and agencies involved that should be punished and vetted, not the kids waiting. I truly wish this report doesn't influence a family in the process of an older adoption to drop out and leave a waiting child with no hope for the future.

Amy said...

I wonder if some of these children should not be returned to China to be with their biological families? I know it is complicated but if they have known birth families and have spent the majority of their lives in China and are having great difficulty adjusting to the adoptive families maybe this should be on the table as an option. I fully understand it is not easy as they had to give up Chinese citizenship to become US citizens.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is that international adoption demand is driving the illicit supply. Just as in other well-documented programs such as Columbia , Peru, and Ethiopia, "orphans" are being manufactured to supply the demand. The mega $$$ spent in these countries by Americans is very good incentive. This has to stop. It's unethical. If China can't police itself at least we can spread the word about these types of problems. Kudos to the brave families making this public.

Anonymous said...

I volunteered at a CWI in China from 2007-2010.

During that time, I was aware of many corruptions within the CWI, including
but not limited to the adoption practices.

I was horrified by the article and yet not surprised. I was in contact with
many adopting parents before they would come to get their child. More than
once, I was contacted by the soon-to-be-arriving parents of some of the
older kids. These parents thought the girls they were adopting were 12 or
13 years old. They would ask for more info or photos about their child.

I knew the girls. I knew them and knew that they biked to the high school
nearby every day. I knew that they were 17 and 18 year old girls. I knew
that they were old enough that they had boyfriends.

I struggled about what to do in those situations. I couldn't share my real
thoughts with the families or I would be kicked out of the orphanage. I was
not willing to risk the work of all of the foreign volunteers in my city.
I was also afraid that the adopting families wouldn't believe me. I think a
lot of adopting families have rose-colored glasses and don't want to believe
that any corruption issues will affect their child. They might even go so
far as to admit that corruption is widespread, but that "their" child is
somehow magically unaffected by it, if that makes sense.

I was sick to my stomach over it at the time. I do believe I failed those
parents in the end, because I had a duty to tell them what I knew. But at
the same time, how could I damage the ongoing long-term work with kids in
the orphanage there?

It makes me ill to think about it. I almost can't look at charities in
China now, because the corruption I saw there was so overwhelming. My
friends and I raised money for a heart surgery for a little boy and the
director was thrilled- not because a boy would have life-saving surgery, but
because the funds the government had allocated for that surgery could now be
used to upgrade her to a better car! They'd had the money all along. We
were completely misled and many of us sacrificed our own personal finances
to provide for this boy who supposedly would not get the surgery he needed
without our help. Lies. All of it.

I'm not saying there isn't a crisis in China with orphans. I'm just saying
the whole thing has blown up and become a money-making venture and the true
orphans who need help are not always the ones who are receiving help. And
messes- giant messes like the ones the women in your article are living- are
the result.

Anonymous said...

As the adoptive mother to a SN girl adopted in 2008 from Luoyang at putative age 7, I am quite positive that everything in her file was falsified. I was not surprised to find her age off by at least 1 year, probably more like 2. She does have a significant SN (which is immediately obvious and the only thing not falsified in her file) that she probably never received medical attention for in China. I do know that she has received many more educational and medical opportunities than would have been possible in China, due to her SN. I now wonder if there was more to the story of abandonment as a toddler than even I guessed. Thank you Brian for these kind of articles.

Laurie McLean said...

Brian, can you share where your statistics come from? Some are doubting the story, because of the poor availability of accurate numbers about the orphan population. They site a study from 2006 that is the only one done at this point on the orphan population in China.

Research-China.Org said...

Which statistics are you specifically referring to? I am curious as to how ANY statistics would cause one to doubt the first-hand experiences of those from Luoyang, Beijing, etc.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, its very difficult for any correct stats to come out of china. Foe example, most babies don't exist until the orphanage gets them paper ready for adoption. This means they are then issued a hukou (birth card) before this they are considered "black children". Even after finding our daughter, fostering her, getting her registered at the orphanage. It took over 2 years after her adoption to get her hukou cancelled, in order to get her a visa to return to china under us as employees. We were allowed to get her a tourist visa and leave china every 90 days.

Anonymous said...

14 years ago, when I just began to realize the true enormity of our
corrupted adoption, I went online with dial-up and on alt.adoption and Guatemala-adopt and some other places, and naively issued a warning that adoption was merely a mask for legalized baby buying and selling. Well, imagine how that went over with waiting PAPs and new APs and how many new friends I made! I naively called on the ethical members of the adoption industry to police itself and weed out the criminal profiteers
inhabiting its underbelly, lest the corruption spread like a cancer.

I might not have been the first Anti-Adoption Strawman, but I was sure made to feel like I was. How dare I suggest anyone's adoption was motivated by anything other than the best interests of children? How dare I taint anyone's adoption with thoughts of buying, selling, trafficking and profiteering? How dare I suggest that those who were involved with the procurement and placement of children were anything less than caring and ethical people? How would I explain my words to my
own adopted daughter as she grew up, even though she asked at one point, on her own, if we picked her out like we picked out a dog at the local Humane Society? Did I want her to think she was bought and sold? Didn't I know that the children we were all adopting would be facing a life of dire poverty, hunger, no education, no opportunity, no medical care, possible life on the streets as prostitutes and drug addicts or worse, if it were not for us adopters and those wonderful people that helped these children join our families? Didn't I realize that despite the total lack of financial transparency, that the monies we all paid were legitimate fees for services? I recall posts on Guatemala-adopt, from agency people, that tried to explain and itemize how fees were spent, but never saw a single receipt.

14 years later, what have we learned? We have learned that corruption, not reformers, is what is responsible for the closing of adoptions. The list of countries that have closed grows all the time. I have always said that it was impossible for China to be as clean a system as that adoption community claimed it was. Chinese adoption scandals continue to
be exposed on a regular basis. When Guatemala shut down, I easily and correctly predicted that Africa would be the next target of adoption exploitation and exposed corruption. We have seen the ongoing exploitation of young, vulnerable, poor and illiterate pregnant women around the world who are tricked, coerced and even robbed of their children. We have learned that many of the wonderful" people who brought us and our adopted children together, are in fact, criminal profiteers engaging in the trafficking of children for adoption. Some
have been imprisoned or put out of business while others are still
plying their trade. We have seen that the exorbitant fees for
"services," are really unnecessary when we look at the costs of domestic adoptions within countries like Brazil, Peru, Poland and even from our own foster care system.

We have seen orphans manufactured or children with laundered identities so they are adoptable, become available to meet a demand when a country is open, and we have seen those numbers diminish when a country is closed, leaving only the true orphans, in true need, not the high demand
healthy newborns left behind. We have a system of high cost, private
domestic and international adoption, supported and corrupted by our demand and money, that does comodify children and does put a price tag on them. As offensive and distasteful as the infamous Casa Alianza Bar Code Baby Billboard was in Guatemala, perhaps part of our revulsion at it was because it spoke to a truth we would rather not face.

The mask has been melting off the adoption industry, exposing its rotten underbelly and the adoption reformers will not stand to be made into Anti-Adoption Strawmen.

David K
Proud Founding Board Member Of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating--depressing--and ultimately not surprising. I did a bit of research on Michael Melsi, who exposed what was happening at Luoyang. He started a foundation for orphans which was summarily closed without explanation in 2009--probably after the events described by Brian. (All of which validates Brian's narrative)
My former agency, CCAI, now has its own charity for older children in orphanages - Luoyang among them. H.m.m..this is the same CCAI that swore to my face that my infant daughter from Guilin was normal and healthy--the same one who would not look anyone in the face--the same one who, 16 years later, has proven to have asperger's. I love her, but I was deceived. I have since seen--and Dr. Changfu Chang's presentation confirmed this (see notes elsewhere on Brian's blog) that many on the Chinese adoption side view literal facts as irrelevant to the larger cause of getting a child adopted by an American. Whether this is motivated by some ultimate form of altruism is anyone's guess. But when the adoption fee, paid in cash, is several times more than what an orphanage director might earn in a year, and governmental authorities are not looking, the opportunities are ripe for corruption by anyone and everyone.
My younger daughter, from Shaoyang Hunan, seems to have been sandwiched in between two cycles of baby selling there, from what I can tell.
Susan M (New Jersey)

Anonymous said...

Nearly all adoptions from Luoyang come out of CCAI these days. I think WACAP's association with them is pretty limited now as its all been moved to CCAI. I wonder if CCAI would have anything to say about this stuff.

Pam said...

In response to Susan's post, I do know several Henan orphanages who have waived the 30,000 donation fee for some hard pressed families. Is this the norm? No! But I have seen it happen.

Plus, I read that orphanages in one southern province in a particular orphanage were waiving all donation fees on all children. Interesting!!! At least some people in director positions are making a difference.

Pam in Henan

Lou and Lorna said...

We adopted our daughter, Bridget, through a Journey of Hope program 22 months ago. She was listed as an "aging out" teenager who wanted to be adopted and go to America. The truth was, she knew nothing of America, really wanted a Chinese family, and still isn't sure if she wants to be here. She told a Chinese-speaking friend that someone in China told her to "never tell them (us) the truth" and to "be nice to them (us) so they'll send you to college, then come back to China". Needless to say, we're WORRIED.

Lou and Lorna said...

We adopted our daughter, Bridget, from Guangzhou SWI 22 months ago through a Journey of Hope program. We fell for the story of an "aging out" teen who really wanted to be adopted and go to America. It didn't take long to figure out that was not true! She did not know where the US was, and used to ask every Chinese American person she met if she could live with them. She told a Chinese-speaking friend of ours that someone in China told her to "not tell them (us) the truth about anything", and "be nice to them (us) so they'll send you to college, then come back to China". In lieu of this story that Brian has uncovered, we are VERY concerned.

Anonymous said...

I found your site today through a link to the court case with Ms. Hansen who sent her adopted boy back to Russia. As for China adoptions of aging out children, please -- listen to those of you still not wanting to believe. Our adoption did not materialize while we were in China. The losses? Not bringing a child into our family, money, and time -- lots of time that we can not recover. But we are at peace because we followed our intuition and believe this "14-year old" is exactly where she is destined to be.... with her foster family who raised her. Today, reading your blog simply was like reading about our experience, except that the adoption did not go through. We could not ethically (and this is no slight to those who did adopt) go through with something this young woman did not want. Things unravelled very quickly in China. She cried and resisted us the whole time. To her credit she knew two words of English: 'No" and "Merica" (America). She frantically tried to communicate with us. We patiently let things play out before our adoption finalization. She shared with us photo albums, and letters from her foster family. We soon learned this was a child that was sent to the orphanage in the same plan as you describe with the other families: to promise her foster family that she would live in the U.S. as an exchange student, to return four years later with an education and promise of a good job to support them. People, I know your hearts are in a good place, as was ours. Please look at this rationally and believe that this is happening. Do whatever you can to find out the truth if this still isn't enough for you.
Lastly, I would like to use our failed adoption to making sweeping changes in this industry and with the USCIS. How can we get started? If not for your blog we would have sat silently in our loss. Let's use social media for positive change. Too many people are being deceived (the child, the foster/relative families, the adoptive families). The word must get out that there's been deception.

Research-China.Org said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you so much for speaking out. Families have been quiet for too long, silenced by the many voices calling for secrecy. Please consider contacting me directly so that we can discuss your experiences in more detail.


All the best!


Jan Stewart said...

As heartbreaking as your blog post may be.........I find the comments underneath even many people signed anonymous......with no room in their hearts for the parents and families of these stolen children......All I see is " I want, I need, My , My "...........didn't any one stop to think......that all these children have a family of some sort?........

Anonymous said...

Yes, this can happen. Unfortunately, there are orphans in China who need homes. For them, it makes me sad that anything like this can occur. But your facts are not correct regarding the Special Focus Program. The shared list program did not even begin until 2008 and the special focus program started at the end of 2010. So there is no way a volunteer was with Special focus children in 2006.

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to become a victim of corrupt practices don't fuel them by paying large amounts of money. That is the real lesson to be learned here.

Chris said...

Brian, do you know what happens to the kids w/ obvious SN's the ones with missing limbs, burns, SB, or CP do their families magically show up again or are they the ones we see on the sidewalks at the Forbidden City?
I can totally see China cooking up schemes like these,but at the same time closing down Guatemala adoptions didn't magically empty the orphanages.

Ani said...

We are just starting to begin a 2nd adoption of a SN boy. Our daughter was adopted in 2005 from Gaoyou. I now understand that most likely hers was an adoption that was likely "manufactured". I have a whole world of concerns about that and how I will someday have a conversation with her about that aspect of her adoption. The stats that I have read through Brian's blog made my heart cold. And though my daughter is my life...I wonder who else's life she might have been/ might be...
sad in many many ways
So, a SN boy on the "special focus list"... should we proceed? IS this a list that might have integrity?

Ani said...

Can someone point me in the direction of information about children who really do age out..What happens to them? Where do they go? Do children with SN age out?
Thank you

Tracie said...

I don't understand. With 87 million orphans in Asia, why would they need to manufacture need that obviously already exists in such large numbers?

Research-China.Org said...

Because there aren't anywhere near 87 million true orphans in Asia.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I adopted our daughter from Shaoyang CWI in 1999. China documented that she was 1 year old, though our pediatrician listed her as an "underdeveloped 2 year old." Now, at age 16, our home has been turned upside-down by our daughter's possible onset of bipolar, Asperger's, altered reality, and reactive attachment disorder. When China assigns children as SN, be very careful, because what lies under the surface may not come into the light until years later.

We love our daughter. We've loved her the minute we started the adoption process. But no one could have prepared us for the rollercoaster ride of multiple hospitalizations and unpredictable behaviors that our family (also 3 bio daughters) have lived through trying to convince our China daughter that she is loved, wanted, and worth the world to us.

If you are a waiting parent or a family investigating the prospect of international adoption, be very careful. Make sure that you have the resources to adopt. Not just money, or a roomy house, or a team of supportive family members. Make sure you have resources like patience, thick skin, unwavering love, and no expectations about the future of your dear child in the US. China, for reasons I don't understand, often fabricates information about their orphans. Be very careful.

Anonymous said...

My family had a similar experience with my brother who was adopted from China at the age of 3. He is now 13 years old and experiencing reactive attachment disorder, mood swings, fits of rage, and multiple hospitalizations. He was listed a special-needs for a heart condition, but obviously there was something more going on too. I have two sisters who were also adopted from China at younger ages who are doing fine, it's just luck of the draw I suppose. Like biological children. My mom is set to go back soon for a 13-year-old that is aging out. I just pray she is truly in need and not one of these scam adoptions. My family can't handle that right now

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of kids in the US that need adoption. said...

Oh so you adopted from the US then Anonymous? Since there are plenty here?