China Daily reports that fewer kids are available for foreign adoption because domestic adoption is on the rise. I've seen this reported elsewhere, and I do believe it is true. As the article reports, changing attitudes toward adoption and greater affluence account for the rise in domestic adoption.
But a couple of things in the article are troubling. First, the lovely little chart that shows that ALL the kids registered for adoption got adopted. Hah! It makes it sound that all children in Chinese orphanages are getting adopted. Hah! (Did I say that already?! It bears repeating.) Hah! I do believe that fewer children are being abandoned -- a combination of better economic times and slowly changing attitudes about girls. But, still, HAH!
The other troubling thing -- this quote from a government official: "Now more and more Chinese people are adopting kids simply because they love children and are proud to become foster parents." Foster parents? I'm hoping that's a translation error, and that these adoptions are in fact seen as permanent. When we were in Xiamen, one of our Chinese friends told us that in Shanghai, where she was from, it was not uncommon for couples to bring orphans home for just a year or so, and then return them to the SWI. I asked lots of questions about whether these were foster care situations? No. Were these situation where to placement didn't work out? No, parents just changed their minds. Ouch! Of course, this is merely anectdotal evidence . . . .
Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled that domestic adoption is growing in China. I've always seen myself as my kids' third-best option. Best would have been being raised by their birthparents (poverty isn't a good enough reason to remove children from parents), second best would have been a domestic adoption where there would be no loss of culture or language (political oppression isn't a good enough reason to remove children from their culture), and third best is international adoption. (No, I don't tell my kids that (at least not yet!) -- I have enough trouble on the "I get no respect" front!)
But China does have a way to go in terms of parenting adopted children. The "No More Secrets" philosophy hasn't reached there yet. When we went back to meet Maya's foster parents last year, they were proudly telling us about their other foster kids -- Maya was their first, their second was adopted domestically by a family in Guangzhou, their third was adopted to the U.S., and their current foster child just had her file sent to CCAA. I was curious about the domestic adoption -- why a Guangzhou Province family rather than a Guangxi Province family? Our guide explained that it was common to adopt from another province so as to make it easier to keep the adoption secret. He said that families were advised, in fact, to fake a pregnancy to better hide the adoption. Sound familiar? U.S. circa 1940-69?
Even given this, I still think domestic adoption is a better option for Chinese kids than international adoption. And I wonder if, culturally, the "too many secrets" approach is less harmful to adopted kids in China than we've found it here. I hope Chinese scholars and social works are studying this phenomenon. And I wonder what kind of education program there is for parents seeking to adopt domestically in China. If anyone has any information, I'd love to hear it.