Saturday, May 9, 2009

One Year Later -- Update on Quake Orphans

Xinhua News Agency reports:
The reason only 12 earthquake orphans have been adopted by new families is because authorities have been respecting the wishes of the children, the head of Sichuan civil affairs bureau told a press conference days before the one-year anniversary of the earthquake Thursday in Chengdu.

"Most of the orphans prefer to live with their family relatives, such as grandparents or uncle and aunt," Huang Mingquan said at the meeting. "The family relatives also strongly ask for the custody of these children," he said.
Sounds like the perfect solution -- after losing everything familiar, staying with relatives, people you know, seems like the best result. I posted before about a report suggesting that international adoption is not the right result following a crisis like earthquakes and tsunamis.

But I'm also not sure the Sichuan official's explanation is entirely accurate. Previous reports said that the only children who needed to be adopted were the 88 without relatives to care for them. It doesn't seem, then, that the reason only 12 have been adopted is that everyone else has relatives they'd rather be with. Where are the un-adopted 76 without relatives? And what about the previously-offered explanation that the reason placement is so slow is that many of the orphans are handicapped? (And no one has yet reported Jane Liedtke's explanation for why the quake orphans are not being adopted -- that they are considered unlucky.)

And what about the direct contradiction in the article above, with the Sichuan official also saying, "Other earthquake orphans, who do not have any family members or their family members were unable to take care of them, have been arranged to live in various social welfare institutions or boarding schools." So, we do have more than 12 orphans with no relatives, and they remain unadopted. It also seems that those 12 were adopted 6 months ago -- this November report said 12 quake orphans had been adopted at that time. Six months later, no more have been adopted?

Maybe the "respecting the wishes of the children" from the first paragraph is connected to children in boarding schools or SWIs -- they would rather stay there than be adopted by non-relatives? I could buy that explanation, especially for older children, if that's what the article actually said. But it doesn't; children's wishes is directly connected to staying with relatives, not anything else.

Color me confused. It seems that the good news is that the vast majority of the 630 children orphaned in the quake are in the care of relatives. More good news -- 12 children without relatives to care for them have found adoptive families. The bad news -- one year after the quake, 76 children have no families at all to care for them. And officials are not offering any explanation of why these 76 children have not been adopted, when 10,000 Chinese families came forward immediately after the quake offering to adopt.

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