When I tell people that we are adopting from China, I am always a little surprised that I rarely get asked this question. Or the companion question of “why are you adopting?” With the latter I think most folks just assume infertility. As far as the former, I am more likely to hear from whatever person I’ve just told that they know someone else who has adopted from China than to be asked why we chose that particular country. So I guess in this little corner of the US, China adoptions are fairly common, or at least well known, if not always well-understood.
That does not seem to be the case in much of the rest of the country however. This question, and its many companion queries, comes up on the adoption boards like clockwork. And then of course, there is the periodic media scrutiny of the process. And for some reason, people eventually seem to need to ask – invariably in some comment section of an Internet article covering IA – why we don’t adopt a child from here in the US. Usually the reasoning goes something like “there are so many children in the foster care system” and “shouldn’t we help ‘our own’ children first?” etc. Inevitably the comment is made by someone who has never been touched by adoption and who has no intention of adopting him or herself. So while it pisses me off, I am rarely moved to respond to the ignorance inherent in most of these statements.
However, since CNN in all its infinite wisdom decided to give air time to some ignorant person opining how prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) in the China program are obviously racist for not adopting African American babies from the US foster care system, I thought now was a pretty good time to address the issue.
Here’s the transcript of the segment in question in case you want to join in on the fun: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0701/05/pzn.01.html
I’m told they are airing some sort of “make-up” panel that has actual people from the Chinese American and Chinese adoption communities. I’ll be very curious to see whether they actually bother to apologize for allowing such biased and baseless comments to be made on the air. Not holding my breath though.
But here, in a nutshell is why we, Darren and Janice, are adopting from China.
Why International Adoption?
First off, Darren and I want a non-special-needs (NSN) infant. We are both very clear on that. We both know we do not have the emotional wherewithal to take on a child with known special needs. We realize that there are no guarantees in adoption, but having chosen not to have bio kids because of potential special needs, we’re pretty aware we aren’t ready to take on known special needs. We also know from our research on child development, attachment etc. that we want an infant as young as possible. Starting with those parameters, we began looking at our options.
The desire for a healthy infant is typical in the adoption community. This fact, in combination with falling fertility rates and the relatively recent advent of “open” adoptions, has created a very competitive environment in domestic adoption. The birth mother chooses the parents and if you are not the “perfect” candidates (or even if you are!) you could wait years for a child. This is not a situation we were particularly happy about participating in. In addition, domestic adoption laws are weighed very heavily in favor of the birth parents (and I do mean parents, not just the mothers.) Rightly or wrongly, it means the birth parents have all the power in this relationship. Birth mothers often have months to change their minds and reverse the relinquishment. Birth fathers can come back years later and claim they were never properly informed about the existence of their child and demand custody. Having watched a friend have an adoption fall through because the parents of the birth mother pressured her into changing her mind, we saw that the potential pitfalls went beyond just the birth mom and dad. We concluded we were not willing to risk the potential heartache that domestic adoption could bring. In addition, private domestic adoption is potentially extremely expensive, since PAPs often pay for medical expenses during a birth mothers pregnancy, and private adoption fees are generally pretty high. So private domestic adoption was out for us.
Likewise, foster-adopt was never really an option. Qualifying as a foster parent in California is a pretty rigorous process. Which is a Good Thing, don’t get me wrong, but a little more than we were prepared to take on. And in truth, the foster care system in this country is focused on re-unification with the child’s family and NOT on adoption. Most children are in the foster care system for very good reasons e.g parental abuse, neglect and criminality. Most of the children are older and/or have special needs (crack-addicted babies being some of the most common in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.) Infants and toddlers that are healthy and are ready to be adopted (i.e their birth parents’ parental rights have been severed) are extremely rare. Once again, given our desires and limitations, foster-adopt was out.
Having looked at all that, we opted for International Adoption.
Once Again, Why China?
As I have mentioned, I am Asian myself. Asian cultures in general have always held a lot of fascination for me. Darren has also had an attraction to various aspects or various Asian cultures. We have both studies Eastern martial arts, philosophies and religions as well as history and cultures of many Asian countries. So really the choice to go look to Asia wasn’t very difficult.
We did look at other regions of the world just to cover our bases. However, we found none of the programs worked for us. Eastern European countries have experienced major corruption issues, many having now closed down due to scandals. Those that are still open are often unreliable in many ways. All require either very long travel times or multiple trips. Children are often at high risk for drug or alcohol exposure. So we decided against Eastern Europe. Latin America has few programs open to the US. The most popular, Guatemala, is both expensive (the fees are typically several times as much as for China) and potentially corrupt. When the US ratifies the Hague Convention on Adoption, the government may close off adoptions from Guatemala. So we ruled out Latin America. Africa also has few countries open to the US (few African countries have IA programs at all!) I understand Ethiopia is now open and a fairly good program, but at the time it wasn’t really an option. So that really did leave us with Asian countries.
Naturally I looked at Indonesia first, but they do not have an IA program. Non-Indonesian citizens must be resident in Indonesia for two years to adopt an Indonesian child. Also you can only adopt a child of your own religion and most orphans are presumed to be Muslim (Indonesia being a predominantly Islamic country now) so that was out. Thailand, the nearest cultural cousin to Indonesia, had a very long wait and also mostly older children so again that was out. We didn’t qualify for Korea for a couple of reasons and also we really didn’t like the fact that the government prefers PAPs NOT travel to Korea to receive their child. Vietnam had just closed to the US a few months before we seriously started looking. Cambodia and a few other countries have IA programs but at the time these were very small and unreliable programs. China had a large and very stable program that had never experienced a shut down in its 10+ years of operation. The Chinese government had made great strides in creating a (relatively) corruption-free program and the health of the children was generally good. Being mostly the children of poor, rural farmers, few had alcohol or drug exposure risks and orphanage conditions were fair, due in large part to the money from the IA program. We also both had a deep abiding respect for this 4000 year old culture. So for us, China was the best fit.
So, not such a nutshell, but there are our reasons. There are lots of little glib answers that float around the China adoption community for this question. So far I’ve had little opportunity to answer the question and those I’ve talked to I generally know well enough to give a real answer to rather than one of the quips.
That being said I will leave you with this one:
Why China? Because that’s where my daughter is!