This spring, the business magazine Caixin made headlines around the world when it uncovered corruption at Chinese adoption agencies involving children stolen from their families in Hunan Province and sold for steep prices in the international adoption arena. The news hit hard in the United States, which is home to about 60,000 children adopted from China, mostly girls. Adoptive parents are grappling with the news now that the myth they were once sold on -- that orphanages are overrun with abandoned Chinese girls -- has been shattered.Even without names used, it's clear that the story of the adoptive mother in the U.S. is the same one reported here by the New York Times (again, anonymously to protect her daughter's identity); the Chinese father's story is likely the same as reported in Caixin Century magazine.
For years, even social scientists supported this narrative. Two decades ago, when the gender ratio first started to skew sharply toward boys, they assumed these official figures were distorted by millions of unreported newborn girls. The country's strict one-child policy, they reasoned, prompted a widespread number of parents to conceal their additional children to avoid harsh penalties. Because of an enduring preference for boys, they surmised, many parents hid their girls or simply abandoned them.
In recent years, that theory has come undone. "The more we look at the data, the more we realize the hidden children, they are not there," says Yong Cai, a sociologist at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They have never been born or they have simply been aborted." While some do conceal their children or abandon them, sex-selective abortion and poor health care for baby girls account for most of the sex ratio disparity for very young children, which now stands at about 120 males for every 100 females, Cai says.
Here, we tell the stories of families on both sides of the adoption scandal -- an adoptive mother in the United States who discovered her daughter's adoption papers were forged and a Chinese father whose baby was taken from him. We have not used real names to protect the identity of the American woman's adopted daughter and for the Chinese parent's safety.
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