Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why the Wait?

Commenter LAH asks:

Malinda, I'm wondering if you want to address this sometime in your blog. What
are the real reasons wait times are so long?
Very good question -- why have wait times for international adoption from China to the U.S. lengthened from one year to three years? I wish I had an answer! All I can do is add to the rampant speculation. But that won't stop me, it seems!

I do think that there are fewer non-special-needs children available for adoption from China. There are definitely fewer traditional abandonments, and mostly that's a good thing. The reason it's not a 100% good thing is that some children are being sold on the black market rather than being abandoned in the traditional way, and it's hard to know where these children end up. It's likely that some end up in the sex trade, others are sold into slavery to work in factories and on farms, others are "adopted." Those adoptions may well be to good families, but of course we can't know since they are not being screened. Some of those adoptions may be to acquire a daughter-in-law to raise to marry a son of the family -- an ancient Chinese practice that has not died out. And some end up in orphanages who are paying "finding fees" for "abandoned" children, and are adopted domestically and internationally according to CCAA rules.

I think the main reason for fewer abandonments are economic -- Chinese people are simply better off now, and able to afford more children. There's also some change in attitude, especially in the cities, about the value of girl children. Add to that some steps family planning authorities are taking to incentivize the parenting of girls -- additional benefits for keeping girls, like higher oil rations, increased school subsidies, etc.

Another reason is that the one child policy is actually WORKING in many places in China. People are stopping after one child, regardless of the sex of the baby. And a lot of the reason for that is not coercive policies so much as it is belief in what it takes to be economically successful in China today. When we were in China in 2007, I was amazed by the unanimity of opinion among college students and faculty at Xiada -- the only way to have economic success was to limit yourself to one child. Raising children is simply too expensive in modern China. Success = One Child.

Of course, that attitude is not necessarily gaining traction in rural areas, but the number of people making a living by farming in China is slowly decreasing, and movement to the cities is growing.

When we visited Zoe's and Maya's orphanage, Guiping SWI, the director told me frankly that they had less than half the children they used to have. She said that in the old orphanage building, they were very overcrowded with over 60 children. She was chagrined that they had built a grand new orphanage and had less than 30 kids -- and most of them in foster care.

So yes, there are fewer children available for adoption. And then there have been increases in domestic adoption -- and there would probably be more increase if SWIs weren't interested in hard-currency infusions from foreigners.

But does that mean there are too few to meet the number of domestic and foreign applicants? That's harder to know. I think there are probably more children in Chinese orphanages than we know about or see. There are thousands of rural orphanages all over China. At one time, there was a brisk "trade" in children from these orphanages to the larger orphanages that do international adoptions. The Hunan scandals that shone light on a variety of this kind of transfer pretty much shut down all transfers, even legal ones, because SWI directors were afraid of misstepping and being accused of trafficking. I don't think the transfers have resumed, or if they ever will resume. The CCAA promised new policies for transfers, but as far as we know, they have not materialized.

And it doesn't seem that there are a lot of domestic adoptions from these smaller orphanages -- most adoptive parents in China are interested in children from the "better orphanages," just like international adopters are, for reasons of physical and mental health of the children.

So, will wait times increase, decrease, remain the same? No idea. If they do increase or stay the same, I hope it is because children are staying with their birth families. THAT'S a real adoption success story!

I know there are prospective adoptive parents who are probably saying, "Easy for you to say, you've already got your children." Yes, and I understand the frustration -- it's hard to consider that the best interest of the child might be not to be adopted by you when you have so much love to give. And wanting what's best for a child is hard to figure when the child is an idea, an abstraction to you. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't.


Anonymous said...

I have this distinct feeling that when I'm done commenting at your blog, a lot of your lurkers probably won't like what I have to say. But I'll say it anyway:

"It's hard to consider that the best interest of the child might be not to be adopted by you when you have so much love to give."

It's wonderful that a prospective parent wants to adopt a child who wouldn't otherwise (legally) have a home. Not because they have no parents, but because their parents were unable to keep them due to the OCP.

Yet, I often find that people don't want to give much consideration to the birthparents' feelings - about how they may have had to feel when laying their child down to be found by social workers.

And then I often receive the "But we don't KNOW if her parents loved her or if they think about her. We don't want to make the assumptions about that."

I understand that no one truly knows what goes through the mind of a parent in China who has had no choice but to relinquish. But if a parent takes the time to really think about it, to reflect in their own hearts and minds - do they honestly believe that the birthparent did NOT love their child?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I should have said "SOME people do not want to give consideration to the birthparents' feelings."

I KNOW there are adoptive parents out there who DO care, who do reads the blogs of adult adoptees, who DO make every effort to respect and honour the birthparents' roles, even if they cannot be in their children's lives. And I applaud them for that, because it will pay off in the long run and can instill a huge strong sense of self-esteem in their children.

But from what I observe on various forums and message boards - as long as the birthparent is not accessible by any means, it is much easier to keep acknowledgement to a minimum or not even acknoledge them as a mother and father at all.