Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rise in Domestic Adoption in China

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.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I so agree. Madeline's foster mother also has told us there are less children abandoned and available for her to foster. Many of the foster mothers have had to travel to orphanages farther away to find children to foster and also some have just quit and gotten different jobs completely (M's is now working as a private nanny). She has also told us that attitudes are changing toward girls and that with new money people do not care as they know any child can earn enough to support them. I am so glad to hear it and so glad that more families are able to adopt (I don't think it was a matter of not wanting to before as China has a very long history of adoption, but I think policy and finances were much of the reason for less domestic adoption and the reason for higher abandonment rates).

btw--I haven't discussed the third best option either; well, not in those terms. I am waiting for her to age a bit, but I have agreed with her that it is sad that her birthfamily could not care for her for one reason or another as I know she really wants to know them (especially their names--it is a sticking point for her).

As far as foster/adopt terminology, I was told there is no exact translation and the terms are often substituted one for another. I know with Madeline's foster mother, she often will write adopt China mom and sometimes foster Chinese mom. Our translator on the phone will also shift during our conversations from one to the next. Also, her foster mother was very upset that we were going to tell her about her birthparents. When we first came home she begged us to tell her that she was her bio mother so she would not have pain and feel shamed. We then asked her how we would explain to her why she would let her be adopted to the USA and what kind of pain would that cause. In China, M referred to her as MaMa and has a foster family that was identified as her bio family, her foster mother wanted to adopt her, but was not allowed (we found that out last year). After MUCH explanation and discussion her foster mother is happy with our decision (or at least content) and understands the reasons behind our decisions.

I am currently reading a dissertation about early Chinese adoption so I will let you know if anything is learned there. So far there is a difference in the Ming dynasty as adopted children at that time had to have the same surname, but foster (also referred to as adoption, but under different circumstances) meant that a child from a different area was brought in or a girl was brought in as a sister to eventually marry the son or that the son was married to a daughter and the daughter became the in-law and the boy became the son.

All that said, I am just glad that policies are changing and hoping that at least the nsn program will eventually close and not be necessary. I know there is a long way to go with attitudes about children with sn, so I think we will see that program for some time.