Most people out there, unless involved in the Chinese adoption community, have horrible misconceptions about the state of adoptions from China. I’d like to dispel a few of those myths.
When G and I started out on the path to adoption in early 2006, we believed all the stories that there were orphanages full of healthy baby girls who had been abandoned as a result of China’s one child policy. Now we didn’t decide on adoption because we wanted to save a child — far from it — but neither of us can say that the popular image wasn’t one of factors that caused us to choose China over, say, a domestic adoption.
Boy we were wrong. 2006 saw the beginning of a massive slowdown in referrals of healthy baby girls. In fact, if we had not changed paths we would still be waiting for a referral, a wait that would probably have lasted a total of seven years. Contrast that to 2005, when families were receiving referrals within six months of submitting their paperwork.
There are a lot of explanations for the slowdown. Some people believe it’s a Chinese government effort to save face, and that baby girls are being abandoned just like always. I really don’t think that’s the case. There seem to be a number of factors pointing toward fewer abandonments and fewer international adoptions: better economic conditions, a rise in domestic adoptions, a break away from the tradition favoring sons, and the rise of ultrasounds allowing for abortions for gender selection. I think all of these things factor in.
Another factor many people don’t want to face: a lot of the abandonments prior to 2006 may not have been actual “abandonments.” Orphanages were allegedly paying families to give up their children for international adoption because it was a lucrative business. In 2005 a baby-buying scandal in Hunan province came to light, and then magically right after that the numbers of available healthy baby girls began to shrink. I sure don’t think that’s a coincidence.
So, even though the popular view of Chinese adoption is that there are tons of baby girls available, it’s just not true. The program now mainly places children with medical needs. “Waiting Child” adoptions comprise at least 60% of the total adoptions from China to the US, and I expect that percentage to rise. Approximately 2000 children with medical needs are currently available for adoption, and the conventional wisdom is that China will one day soon stop referring healthy children and move to a “Waiting Child” only program.
One fact that shows so-called non-special needs adoption has changed: a fair percentage of healthy children placed are now boys, something a lot of people don’t know. Things just aren’t the same as they used to be, or, at least, how so many of us thought they were.