China Tightens Rules on Foreign Adoptions

Last year Americans adopted 7,900 Chinese children; since 1989, that number is over 48,500. The majority are little girls. Chinese law limits families to one child only, and most Chinese families prefer males. This means that unmarried or very poor mothers often leave their daughters along roadsides or in orphanages.

 Many gay and older couples as well as single men and women have opened their homes and their hearts to these babies.

 Now the Chinese government plans to change all that.

 Starting in May 2007, a series of new rules restricts adoptions to those who have money, stable heterosexual marriages, good health, and lean bodies.

The following need not apply to adopt Chinese children:

  • Unmarried people
  • Disabled
  • Anyone with a body mass of 40 or more
  • Couples under 30 or over 50 years of age (one person may disqualify a couple)
  • Couples with assets of less than $80,000
  • Couples who make less than $10,000 per person in the household (include the adoptive child)
  • Mentally ill persons
  • Those with facial deformities
  • Anyone who took or is taking medications for anxiety or depression within the past two years
  • Those with cancer, AIDS or other severe health problems

Furthermore, married couples must have been married at least two years before making application. If a person has been divorced, then the couple must have been married at least five years. 

An employee of the China Center of Adoption Affairs, speaking under terms of anonymity, explained that the new rules are about protecting children and finding them the best possible homes. 

 “A lot of people are trying to portray this as a negative thing, but I don’t see it that way,” said Keith Wallace, head of Families Thru International Adoption, Inc., to a New York Times reporter. “China is not doing anything out of the ordinary.” 

 Indeed, China’s new rules are very much in line with those of other foreign countries and less restrictive than many, including South Korea. South Korean rules require a body mass index of 30, for example. 

 Nevertheless, many Americans who have already adopted Chinese children are speaking out against the new restrictions, which would have disqualified them. One particularly vocal group is in New York. About one-fifth of adopted children from China live in New York City, particularly on the West Side; many of their parents are gay couples or singles. 

Jennifer Masloswki, Manhattan coordinator of Families with Children from China in Greater New York, told the New York Times that her group, which had embraced diversity and different ethnicities, now will become more uniform. 

 “It’s going to change our community into something we don’t want it to be,” she said. She also noted that it would be hard to explain the rules to children who are already adopted. Parents will have to tell them “nowadays, Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t be good enough to adopt you.” 

 Spokespeople from Chinese agencies have explained that the new rules should cut down waiting periods, which now last over 15 months. Fewer children are available because the Chinese economy has improved and the one-child policy is more loosely enforced today. Opponents of the rules argue that they are aimed at gay people, and that over a million children are now living in Chinese orphanages, so there is plenty of “supply.” 

Americans will probably turn to Viet Nam, Guatemala and other countries with easier rules for adoption. This may end up costing people more than double what they pay for Chinese adoptions. The current tab to adopt a Chinese infant, including airfare and hotel accommodations, is about $15,000 to $20,000.