“Why Fewer Americans Are Adopting Chinese”

Just caught wind of this article on Angry Asian Man, but also on the K@W listserv.

“In 2005, American citizens adopted 7,906 children through the state-run China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). In 2008, that number fell to 3,909 kids.”

Take a look. -GS

Why Fewer Americans Are Adopting Chinese Kids
By KAYLA WEBLEY / HONG KONG Kayla Webley / Hong Kong Tue Apr 28, 10:40 am ET

Becky Freer says adopting a ten-month-old baby girl from China is the best thing she has ever done. When Freer, a 44-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, recently decided to further expand her family by adopting a sister for her now three-and-a-half year old daughter, she thought China was the obvious choice. But as a single woman, Freer is no longer eligible. “Three years ago I was an acceptable parent and now I’m not,” she said. “It seems kind of unfair.”

While her daughter will have a new sister – Freer has since been approved to adopt a child from Ethiopia – she is one of a growing number prospective parents who are unable to adopt from China under new adoption laws Beijing put in place in May 2007. The stricter guidelines, intended to limit the overwhelming number of applicants to China’s well-regarded adoption program, have been effective – international adoptions from China to the U.S. have dropped by 50 percent, according to the U.S. State Department. The new regulations require, among other things, that adoptive parents be married, not classified as clinically obese, under 50, not have taken antidepressant medications in the past two years, not have facial deformities and meet certain educational and economic requirements. In 2005, American citizens adopted 7,906 children through the state-run China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). In 2008, that number fell to 3,909 kids. (See pictures of American children up for adoption.)

But the new laws are only part of the reason that fewer Chinese children are being adopted by American families. While the Chinese government does not release domestic adoption figures, U.S.-based adoption agencies say more Chinese children are also being adopted at home. “You have this cultural shift along with the economic shift, where more and more people can not only afford to adopt a child, but culturally, it’s more accepted,” said Cory Barron, foundation director at Children’s Hope International. Historically, adoption was not socially acceptable or a viable economic option for many families in China. But orphanages were getting more crowded, prompting the government to open up to international adoptions in 1992. Josh Zhong, founder and director of Chinese Children Adoption International in Colorado, remembers what it was like in China just 10 years ago. “You would see hundreds of thousands of children,” he said. “Orphanages begging you to come in, saying, ‘Please help us, these children need to go home.'” A slow shift in gender perception may also be playing a role. While girls still make up 95 percent of children at orphanages, Zhong says that, too, has shifted. “Peoples attitude toward having girls is changing dramatically,” Zhong said. “I have friends [in China] who have girls, and they are just so excited.”

With fewer children being put up for adoption but the foreign demand going strong, China can afford to be more selective. “I think they are saying, you know what, we have fewer children now and so we are looking for better parents,” Zhong says. His organization has experienced a drop from 1,152 China adoptions in 2005 to 422 in 2008. And while Beijing’s new standards may sound harsh to Americans with their hearts set on a baby, they have little influence in the matter. “These are China’s children and they can set the requirement to what they deem is best,” says Barron.

International adoptions in the U.S. gained popularity in the 1990s as families reached out to poorer corners of the world to adopt a child in need. Adoptions increased in not only in countries like China, which has always had a trustworthy system, but also in countries that didn’t have a good system of checks and balances. By 2006, the U.S. began implementing some provisions from the 1994 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, a treaty intended to crack down on abduction, exploitation, sale and trafficking of children. The U.S. went on to fully adopt the regulations in April 2008, and has since stopped processing adoptions from Vietnam, Guatemala, Liberia and Kyrgyzstan until those countries meet the Convention’s standards. At the same time, China tightened its own laws, resulting in a worldwide drop in international adoption from a peak of 22,884 adoptions in 2004 to 17,438 last year.

Adopting a child from the CCAA has never been a simple task. After submitting a long list of required documents, including home studies completed by social workers and federal background checks, applicants’ paperwork is approved by the CCAA and the wait begins. Fees and expenses can amount to upwards of $20,000 before families are cleared to take home their new child. And the wait can be long. Today, China has a backlog of approved applicants from around the world, and is just now placing children into homes of families who were approved for adoption in March 2006.

For some families, that’s too long, and so they look to China’s “waiting child” list of children with special needs, ranging from everything from cleft lips or deafness to more severe physical and mental disabilities. Prospective parents can read about a child’s disability in a national database and decide if it is something they can take on. “Kids who would probably never be adopted in China, and maybe wouldn’t have been adopted in the U.S., are now getting homes,” Barron said. Lee Ann Laune, a 37-year old director of special education programs in Missouri, says she probably looked at more than 100 children over the past two-and-a-half years before finding her daughter, Hope. “When we first got into this, there was a six-to-nine month wait,” Lee Ann said. As time passed, Lee Ann said she and her husband, Paul, would look through the “waiting” children to see if they came across a child that was meant for them. In April, the Launes were approved to adopt Hope, a four-and-a-half year old deaf girl from Hunan province in China. “When we looked into her eyes, it was an automatic for us. It was ‘We can handle this,'” she said. “It’s unbelievable to know we are going to be that saving grace for her.”

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