What’s Happening to the Orphans?

There’s an interesting Time magazine article (April 2009) entitled Why Americans Are Adopting Fewer Kids from China.

We mentioned earlier that, currently, the average wait time for a match in China adoptions is pushing 4 years.  The short article touches upon some of the factors that impact the waiting period.  Here are a few highlights:

  • China opened its international adoption program in 1992.
  • In 2005, China approved 7,906 adoptions to U.S. citizens.  That’s nearly 8k orphans just to Americans alone, not to mention those adopted out to families in Europe, Australia, etc.
  • By 2008, that number is down to 3,909.  In 3 years, the number of orphans adopted to U.S. families dropped by 50%.

So, my first reaction is to wonder what’s happening to the orphans?  Is China running low on orphans or something?  The answer is no. The fact is that many who might have adopted from China are now looking elsewhere.  According to the article, the dropping number of international adoptions in China is an intentional effect.  In the last 3 years, the CCAA has instituted new regulations aimed at more narrowly defining who is/isn’t eligible  to adopt.  Among these new regulations are:

  • Educational requirements
  • Financial requirements
  • Must be married (presumably ruling out homosexual couples)
  • Maximum age requirements (must be under 50)
  • Not clinically obese
  • No use of antidepressants in last 2 years
  • No facial deformities

Before we proceed, I’d like to acknowledge what a difficult position China finds itself in.  The system is overburdened and can’t keep up with demand.  There is also the value of ensuring that orphans are adopted into “good” situations.  Plus, there does seem to be an increase in Chinese families adopting domestically.  I also personally speculate about whether or not China really wants to be known as the “Adoption Capital of the World”.  With a culture that values “saving face”, can China stomach the perception that it’s unable to take care of its orphans?  Does it want to be perceived as anti-female, given that 95% of orphans in China are girls?  I speculate that the answers are “no”.

Speculation aside, though, were there really 50% fewer orphans to adopt from China last year than 3 years ago?  We promised ourselves that we wouldn’t write “angry blog posts” and in this case, it’s true.  China is in a tough spot.  This isn’t like buying a car. It’s not about making foreigners happy with quick adoptions.  To simply say, “China needs to properly resource its system to keep with demand” is perhaps overly simplistic.  But as China moves to solve the problems, the main question is, again, what’s happening to the orphans?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Happening to the Orphans?

  1. Certainly at least some of the slow-down, from the Chinese government’s side, is about trying to stop child-trafficking, like what was going on in Guizhou Province, reported here: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-07/03/content_8350825.htm
    and here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8130900.stm
    Not that this is a problem only in China–it’s a serious issue in every country that allows international adoptions of their children.
    This doesn’t answer your question about what IS happening to true orphans in China, however.

  2. Steph,
    Those are sad articles. One supposed benefit of China adoption is that CCAA regulations prevent this stuff from happening. Not naive to think there isn’t shady business, though, given the $ involved. It is happening all over the world.

    The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, which the U.S. joined in April of 2008, is supposed to curtail these practices by setting up central agencies to serve as regulatory authorities. China is a part of the Hague.

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