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Foreign adoptions fall as living standards rise

By WANG KEJU | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-22 07:17

A senior researcher has said the reason fewer overseas families are adopting Chinese orphans is because of the nation's improved living conditions, which mean fewer parents are abandoning their children.

Some 19,000 children were adopted in China last year, including 2,228-just under 12 percent-who went to families living in other countries, according to an annual report from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

It showed that the number of intercountry adoptions had fallen by 42 percent since 2011, when the ministry recorded 3,845.

The ministry, in a regulation released on Wednesday, also forbids local authorities from demanding unreasonable charges or compulsory services or requesting donations during visits to China by overseas families with adopted Chinese children.

The new rules, to take effect on Jan 1, require civil affairs departments to include the expenses of return visits in their financial budget or raise funds from the public welfare lottery to meet the needs of these overseas families. Local authorities are not allowed to charge these families any fees.

In China, only children at registered welfare homes can be legally adopted. Last year, these shelters housed about 86,000 children, 21 percent of the country's 410,000 orphans nationwide, the ministry said. However, that represents a more than 20 percent decrease compared with seven years ago, when they had 108,000.

Tong Xiaojun, head of the Children's Research Institute of China, part of the University of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the drop in children at these homes was the main reason for the fall in intercountry adoptions.

Increased incomes and better living conditions, particularly in the countryside, mean fewer parents now seek to give up their children, who in the past would have been seen as a financial burden, she said.

"Since families can adopt only children from welfare agencies, with the number of orphans in welfare agencies dropping year by year, foreign adoptions will naturally be affected," said Tong, who has been researching China's adoption system since 2005 and provided policy advice to the central government.

She said this is compounded by Chinese parents having priority in the application process.

"It's seen as better for the children if they can be raised in an environment they are familiar with," she explained. "So the government gives preference to Chinese families when it comes to adoption, and international families have to wait longer."

Local families adopted more than 15,000 children last year, over 80 percent of the total.

Traditionally, a large proportion of abandoned children in China are sick or disabled. Tong said Chinese families prefer to adopt healthy, able-bodied children, and because those families have priority, overseas families often have access only to youngsters with special needs, she said.

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