Decline of Chinese Children Adoption by Foreigners

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Adoption is a concept that has no clear meaning of any sort. Different persons interpret it in different ways in regards to the context and viewpoint it is derived from. The concept can, however, be interpreted in terms of four distinct viewpoints, including what it means for the adoptive parents, the birth parents, the adoptee, and the culture in which the adopted child is to be raised. Adoption involves transferring the burden and rights of parenthood from the care of parental parents to new foster parents (adopters) in most situations, regardless of the concept that a child might be willing to follow (Milbrandt 695). The adopter must be ready to accommodate, care for, teach, and understand the needs of the adoptees as they grow. They must be ready to tackle difficult situations which might arise for example when the adoptees start inquiring about their biological parents- in other words, their adoption story; which sometimes can prove to be so difficult to narrate (Milbrandt 695).

Different countries have laws and regulations that govern the adoption of children by both citizens and foreigners. The rules define who is eligible to adopt a child, the children who are eligible for adoption, and the biological parents who can give their children for adoption. China is a country, which has given room for the adoption of children by foreigners, for example, the United States of America’s and South Korean citizens (Tang, Falzarano, & Morreale 1-16). However, since the beginning of the last a decade, there has been a decline in the number of Chinese children being adopted by foreign adopters. There are several reasons behind the decline in adoption witnessed in the last decade as opposed to how frequent adoptions were before.

The paper, therefore, discusses the decline in the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners. In particular, it highlights the requirements for adopting a child from China, the eligibility for adoption, the official policies concerning the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners. The research also determines whether the adoption process in practice varies from the stipulations of the law, data on the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners, reasons for Decline in Chinese Children Adoption. It also determines whether foreign couples shifted their focus from China to other countries resulting in few adoptions and the conclusion.

Requirements for adopting a Child from China

The China Centre for Children Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) is a government-controlled organization tasked with the responsibility of organizing inter-country adoption of children from China (Bork-Hüffer and Yuan-Ihle 571). China has healthy children between the age of zero and fourteen both boys and girls who are waiting in CCCWA to be connected to adopters. Some of the children in the organization have special needs since some of them were born prematurely or with some form defect. This, however, does not imply that the children cannot live healthy and fulfilling lives. The potential foster parents must be taken through proper training to enable them to incorporate the adopted children into their lives and be able to live well with them and especially those with special needs (Bork-Hüffer and Yuan-Ihle 571).

China, the adopters must meet certain requirements laid down by the government. They must also ensure that they meet the requirements of their home countries concerning child adoption. In China, the following are mandatory requirements for adoption a child for foreigners:

The potential adopters must be between the ages of thirty to thirty-five years, they should be in a marriage that has lasted at least two years prior to the intended adoption of a child from China. In case of a divorce, they must have been in their second marriage for at least five years. There should be no more divorces unless it happens after the child has been adopted. The people intending to adopt must do so jointly as a couple as China does not consider civil unions as marriages (Khanna and Killian 570-594). China does not allow lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) or same-sex couples to adopt children in their country (The United States Department of States n.p).

The couple must be childless at the time of adoption and should be mentally and physically fit. They should not be suffering from HIV, blindness, obesity, contagious disease, the facial deformation that is serious, and mental disability among others (Khanna and Killian 570-594). If one partner is health, China is opened to the idea of the other spouse having a well-controlled medical condition. In cases of cancers involving the skin, breast, thyroid and testicular the applicants must be survivors for at least three years. For other types of cancers, the applicants must be free of them for at least five years. The country is open to the idea of accepting applicants with well-maintained mental conditions such as anxiety, and depression (Holt International n.p).

The couple should be high school graduates or have a vocational training that is equivalent to a high school education and should both have an annual income of at least $10,000 (Khanna and Killian 570-594). They should be non-residents of China for a specified time after successful adopting a child. However to finalize the process at least one parent should travel to the country to execute the necessary document in person before the relevant Chinese authorities. The traveling spouse must have the power of attorney from the other spouse notarized an authenticated in the Chinese embassy or one of the general Chinese consulates in the country of origin (The United States Department of States n.p).

The adopting parents are expected to show love to the child, should not have any criminal record, should not abuse the child, and should a not expose the child to things that may corrupt their minds such as drugs or violence. Additionally, the China Center for Adoption Affairs restricted their rules in 2007 because the high demand for child adoption exceeded the numbers of children available for adoption, the requirement for foreigners became more select (Khanna and Killian 570-594).

Single applicants are allowed to apply for adoption if they are women. They must be between the ages of 30 to 50 and should not have more than two children under the age of 18 in their households. The occupation and lifestyle of the prospective adoptive single parent will be considered to determine their availability and capability of caring for the children they seek to adopt. Single applicants must demonstrate their ability to provide a family environment that is safe and meeting the needs of the child, (The United States Department of States n.p).

Eligibility for adoption

The children to be adopted must meet the following requirements: their birth parents must have relinquished their rights though credible evidence to the provincial and chines central authority of their inability to care for their children due to difficulties that are unusual. Abandoned children whose biological parents are not known are also eligible for adoption. Such a child must be placed in a licensed Chinese Social Welfare Institute (SWI). A public announcement is then made in an attempt to locate the biological parents of the child and if there is, no claim on the child after 60 days of the notice the child will be declared abandoned. In terms of age, children allowed for adoption are from age one to fourteen. However, if an adoption involves blood relative there is no age limit. An adoption by a sibling does not have any specific requirements (The United States Department of States n.p).

Official adoption policies of Chinese children by foreigners.

The Hague Convention on Adoption

China is party to the Hague Convention on adoption meaning that the requirements of the convention must be met. The convention safeguards international intercountry adoption of children. It establishes the standards for intercountry adoption practices. It requires the establishment of a central authority in countries that are party to it as the source of authority regarding information and as a point of contact for adoption services. It prevents the abduction, trafficking, and sale of children and ensures that intercountry adoptions are in the children’s best interest. It enables intercountry adoption in the when a child is perceived eligible for adoption in their country of origin. In addition, when due consideration has been given when finding an adoption placement in the country of origin of a child (Hague Conference on Private International Law 1-9).

The procedure of intercountry adoption highlighted by the convention includes the satisfaction of eligibility for both the applicant and the adoptee, the relevant authorities in the country that the adoption is taking place will prepare a report. The report highlights information on the identity of the child, his or her background, adoptability, family history, social environment, medical history and special needs if there is any. Consideration should be given concerning the child upbringing in relation to, ethnic cultural and religious background (Hague Conference on Private International Law 1-9).

The process involves the determination whether the placement is the best for the child based on their report regarding the child and his prospective parents. The report will then be transmitted to the relevant authority of the receiving state concerning the child, proof of consent obtained and the reasons for the determination of the placement of the child. Once the receiving state has approved the decision and the central authorities in both states have agreed that the adoption should proceed, they will take the necessary measure to ensure the adopted child leaves the country of origin, enters and permanently reside in the receiving states (Hague Conference on Private International Law 1-9).

Adoption Law of the People’s Republic of China

According to this law, foreigners are allowed to adopt children in China whether male or female. The law requires that a child’s adoption is examined and approved by the relevant agency in China. The applicant must be childless, have the capability of raising and educating the adoptee, should not have an illness that prevents them from raising a child and must be 30 years and above. The law allows for the adoption of children who are orphans, abandoned and those who parents cannot provide for them due to hardships that are unusual (Chen 550-551).

The foreign applicants are required to submit the following to the Chinese authority: an application for adoption, a marriage certificate, birth certificate, certificate of evidence of professionalism, property, and income. Certificates of health examination and one that reveals that the applicant has no criminal records. A report featuring their lifestyle, the immediate and extended family, finances and the reasons for the application for adoption is required. An approved child adoption certificate from the country of origin by the relevant authority and their photos (Chen 550-551).

The adoption process involves the application for an international adoption in the country of origin at a related organization. Obtaining the relevant certificate required form the adoption, preparing a dossier and offering an application to the Chinese center for adoption affairs. taking an examination and if a qualification is made, the applicant waits for the referral of a child within six to eight months. The applicant is then matched with a child and issues with their basic medical report, photograph and some information concerning growth and development (Chen 550-551).

The adopter is required to fill in a registration of application adoption of children in China. This should be submitted to the registration organization together with the notice issued by the CCAA about the adopters going to China, certificates of identity and photos. A registration certificate is issued within seven days after the validation of the adoptive relationship (Chen 550-551).

The adoption process in practice

China sends more children out of the country for adoption more than any other country in the world and majority of them end up in the United States. While the exact number is not known, there are many abandoned children in China and many of them are housed in the state institution. This is attributed to China’s one-child policy coupled with stringent family planning methods. When to government allowed foreigners to adopt Chinese children they restricted domestic adoption limiting it to those over 35 years and are not able to have children. The reason for this was that the state was concerned that couples will abandon girl children to have male children for the perpetuity of the family line and adopt the girl child later (Riley and Vleet 114).

Americans adopt Chinese children in great numbers and this is because of the availability of children in China. The process of adoption has been subjected to the same criticism concerning unethical practices and corruption just as other countries have been scrutinized. The government permits adoption for couples who have been rejected in other countries (Riley and Vleet 115).

When the measure for the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners was put in place China became a major origin for internationally adopted children due to the standardized and simple adoption procedure with lower costs. However, the number of adopted children decreased in 2007 when CCAA raised the requirements for adoption prioritizing application quality. The changes were in line with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to protect the interest of the child and ensure that they have an appropriate family environment. The new requirements significantly reduced adoption cases since many of the applicants do not meet the criteria for adoption. As the economic situation in other countries, weakened domestic adoption of children in China increased. In 2012, the cases of international adoption that were registered decreased to 4,121, which accounted for 15 percent of all adoptions in the country (Shang and Fisher 23).

The adoption process for foreigners is much more complex, time-consuming and expensive than indicated in the foreign adoption measures. The foreigners must meet the requirement imposed by both the chines government and their country of origin. They must pass through the official channels and licenses agencies required under the foreign adoption measure, undertake complex documentation measures and the emigration and immigration processes. In addition documentation on marital status, health, character, occupation, income, and assets are required (Chen 551).

The foreign adoption measure encourages a donation of several thousand to the social welfare institution but in practice, the donation is compulsory before the completion of the adoption process. In China, foreign adoption is still a sensitive issue even though it is recognized legally and publicity about adoption is not tolerated by the adoption agencies in China (Chen 551).

Data on the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners

The 2015 annual report on intercountry adoption provides statistical data on intercountry adoption between the months of October 2014 to September 2015. This reveals that there was an increase in the number of adoption in several countries China included (Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions Narrative 1). In 2015 American families adopted 2354 children from China increasing the number with more than 15 percent from 2014. However, in the last decade, intercountry adoption by the United States from China has significantly reduced by more than seventy percent. This corresponds with the global decrease in all intercountry adoption in China. In this period, the government of China has made a tremendous effort in promoting domestic adoptions. This has resulted in the placement of between 20,000 to 30,000 children being place domestically in the country (Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions Narrative 3)

The American government is still committed to working closely with the Chinese government to encourage intercountry adoption for children who cannot find permanent families domestically. There is a growing placement trend for children with special needs, older children and those that are part of a sibling group. For instance, the US observer that the profile of adopted Chinese children shifted from 95 percent healthy girls in 2005 to 90 percent children with special need whereas boys constitute a third of that percentage who are today adopted in the United States (Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions Narrative 3)

Have foreign couples shifted their focus from China to other countries on adoption?

International adoption has been relevant to China in the last two decades. However, the new rules for adoption issued in 2007 in the country moved to limit the adoption rates by foreigners. The CCAA further announce changes on intercountry adoption requirements in 2015. The position of these changes seeks to balance international and domestic adoption. Furthermore, recent policy changes have moved from a one-child policy that encouraged international adoption. Lower fertility rates around the world demographic shifts that affect China such as low marriage rates and the delay of childbirth (Ryznar 1-25).

In China for couples who marry divorce rate are even higher, therefore, some people find it difficult to have children in such an unstable environment. The demographic changes in relation to marriage coupled with increased costs for children reduce the chances of having multiple children. These issues challenge the domestic placement of Chinese orphans keeping families small in the country. The one-child policy is recreated through these demographics and this reduces international adoption as population growth becomes slower. International adoption laws in the country have changed several times and there is no guarantee of the current one remaining the same. Therefore, the future political and economic situations may have room for families to raise more children significantly reducing the number of children available for adoption (Ryznar 1-25).

The stricter rules imposed by China on intercountry adoption reduces the number of children available for adoption. Now it takes up to six or seven years to adopt a child in China who is health and a year for children with special needs (Bardsley n.p). In light of these events and conditions regarding adoption foreign couples interested in adopting children may consider other countries that have less complicated issues. China had one of the cheapest and easiest procedure for adaption but these new laws and technical procedures as if the six-year wait is turning away potential applicant. Couples will prefer to adopt children from countries where they procedure happens much faster.

Reasons for the decline in the adoption of Chinese Children

The two main reasons, which explain the dramatic decline in the foreign adoption of Chinese children include; the Chinese One-Child Policy and the strict restrictions that the Chinese government imposed on the foreign adopters.

The First is the One-Child Policy established in 1979 by the then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, and the main reason was to reduce the population of the communist country China (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). Even though the policy was imposed as a temporary measure to curb overpopulation, it went on for almost a quarter of a century post-establishment. The policy required parents to bear only one child and in case a woman got a second pregnancy, they would be forced to abort, be sterilized or they would even be fined heavily (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). However, the rule was not so inclusive because most of those who it was primarily imposed on were the Han Chinese, living in towns across the country. Citizens living in the rural areas, as well as the minority group, were never subjected to the policy. The policy was estimated to have caused a reduction in the population of China by 1.3 billion in its first twenty years of implementation.

The effects of One-Child Policy have been witnessed even in the recent days. There are millions of Chinese in their young adulthood or nearing their child-bearing age but do not have children (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). As a result, the policy has been revised such that it gives room for parents to have two children legally. Couples who do not have siblings are allowed to have two children as a way of addressing the dramatic population decline, which has been witnessed in the past decades (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). Abortion (legal in China), intrauterine devices (IUDs), and sterilization are birth control methods, which have been used in the past, but today, the government of China is sensitizing the citizens about alternative methods, which they can use to control births.

Due to the population decline that China experienced in the past decades because of the One-Child Policy, the number of adopted children has also declined dramatically. Years before the One-Child Policy, adoption of Chinese children was not restricted and was easy to go about. However, as the population kept reducing, restrictions were imposed which it made difficult to adopt a child by foreigners. The children would rather be adopted within the boundaries of China as a nation than outside the country. The policy made many couples not be able to bear children, and as a way of keeping their families grow, they resorted to adopting children (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). Moreover, the policy ensured that there were fewer births hence few children. The reduction in the number of children consequently resulted in few numbers to be adopted by foreigners (Settles, Sheng, Zang, and Zhao 627-646). In fact, currently, the CCCWA statistics show that the number of children available for adoption is less than 200.

Besides the policy of one child, China also tightened the rules governing adoption of children further making it difficult for foreigners to adopt children. For example, China made it difficult to adopt children by people who were; single, obese- having body mass index of 40 and above, older than fifty years, financially unstable, and those who were physically or psychological unstable among others (Baccara, M., Collard-Wexler, Felli, and Yariv 133-158). The restrictions were imposed by the Chinese government through the CCCWA organization because of many applications, which exceeded the number of children available for adoption by foreigners who were interested in adopting them. The restrictions were put in place in May 2007 and raised anxiety and concerns among potential adoptive parents in many countries including the US.

In the past decades, China was leading as a source of foreign-born children in the US adopted by American citizens. The US government also granted Chinese orphans with visas and the regulations government adoption in America are not as strict as they are in other countries across the world (Baccara, M., Collard-Wexler, Felli, and Yariv 133-158). The Chinese government formulated regulations which were intended to recruit only able adoptive parents to ensure the adopted children are raised by healthy, financially empowered, caring parents. The number of families submitting applications to adopt Chinese children was, therefore, cut down after the imposition of the strict guidelines which only a few families could meet (Baccara, M., Collard-Wexler, Felli, and Yariv, 133-158).

There were several reasons given for the move taken by the Chinese government to lay strict guidelines. For instance, it was argued that although single parents could be good caretakers, it was important that the child is raised in a complete family with a father and mother, the couple be educated and be financially stable. Additionally, the Chinese government argued that obese parents did not have a long life compared to their counterparts who were not obese (Baccara, M., Collard-Wexler, Felli, and Yariv 133-158). Many parents therefore who did not meet the set criteria were turned away by the international agencies. In the past decade, Baccara, M., Collard-Wexler, Felli, and Yariv (2014), report that the number of Chinese children adopted in the US has declined tremendously, an incidence, which many did not believe, would occur. Many couples were otherwise eligible to be adoptive parents before the new guidelines were put in place became furious when they read about the restrictions on the websites of the agencies concerned with the inter-country adoption of Chinese children.


In conclusion, child adoption by foreigners has experienced a dramatic decrease in the past decades due to the imposition of various stringent guidelines and laws governing adoption. The Chinese government through CCCWA implemented rules, which made the number of applicants wanting to adopt the Chinese babies decline. Many of the adoptive parents who were previously eligible for adopting children were barred because they never complied with one or two of the requirements necessary for one to adopt a Chinese baby. Additionally, the One-Child Policy imposed to Chinese in 1979 by their then the leader Mr. Xiaoping led to population decline and many families lacked children. The consequence of this policy is that there were few children to adopt by foreigners and families, which did not have children, were allowed to adopt from their close families further contributing to the decline in the adoption of children by foreigners.

Demographic changes of marriage and family have also affected the number of children available for an adoption. Since few people are getting married and those who do get divorced at high rates, it is becoming more difficult to have children. Women who also choose to delay childbirth affect these statistics.

The complex and expensive procedures for adoptions by foreigners are discouraging foreign couples from adopting children in China. On paper, everything seems to be clear and easy but in practice, the procedures can drag on for years.

Works Cited

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Law, Hague International Private. Convention On Protection Of Children And Co-Operation In Respect Of Intercountry Adoption1 . 29 May 1993. 30 November 2017.

Mariagiovanna Baccara, Allan Collard-Wexler, Leonardo Felli, and Leeat Yariv. “Child-adoption Matching: Preferences for gender and race.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (2014): 133-158.

Milbrandt, Jay. “Adopting The Stateless.” Brooks J. Int’l (2014): 695.

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Ryznar, Margaret. ” Adoption In China: Past, Present And Yet To Come.” Georgia Journal Of International And Comparative Law (2017).

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Tiffany Y. Tang, Mary Falzarano and Patricia A. Morreale. ” Assessment of the utility of gesture-based applications for the engagement of Chinese children with autism. .” Universal Access in the Information Society. (2017): 1-16.

Yuan-Ihle, Tabea Bork-Hüffer and Yuan. “The Management of Foreigners in China: Changes to the Migration Laws and Regulations During the late HuWen and earky Xili Eras and their potential effects, 5 (3).” International Journal of China Studies (2014 ): 571.

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