WASHINGTON: It is becoming increasingly difficult for American couples to adopt a Chinese baby because the number of available children is diminishing despite soaring interest, a senior US official told China Daily on Wednesday.
A woman from the United States with her newly-adopted son, Tang Jian, in Suining city, Sichuan province. [File photo]
More than 3,000 children from China were adopted in the United States last year, the largest number among all countries, but the figure has fallen dramatically from nearly 8,000 in 2005, according to data from the US Department of State.
The reasons are, said Michele Thoren Bond, deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizens, there are fewer children in China who need to be adopted, more Chinese families are adopting these children, and fewer unwanted children are being born.
"But the interest in the possibility of adopting a Chinese child has not gone down," she said.
Typically, inter-country adoption procedures take about three-and-a-half years. Now it may take even longer, and applicant families face more paperwork and higher standards after the Chinese government imposed changes in qualifications for prospective parents.
"They were simply trying to reduce the pool of well-qualified people who were applying to adopt. They had many more than they could vet and many more than they needed," she said at the National Adoption Day briefing on Nov 20.
But Bond does not worry about the shrinking number of available Chinese children.
"It is very important to remember that in adoption, we are not finding a child for a family but looking for a good family for each child," she said.
"Our ultimate hope is that each child grows up in a family, not in an orphanage or an institution."
If more and more Chinese families adopt Chinese children and fewer babies are left to foreign families, "the fact that the numbers are going down is not necessarily a bad thing".
China has always been a popular destination for American couples seeking to adopt a baby abroad. Since 2000, US citizens have adopted more babies from China than any other country.
Official figures show that nearly 90 per cent of the adopted Chinese children are female, 44 per cent under 1 year of age and 52 per cent between 1 and 4 years old.
"Many couples want to adopt a child as young as possible, because children can achieve their full potential more easily," she added.
However, many adoptions from China and other countries are of special-needs children, children with medical problems or older children.
The US official praised her Chinese counterparts who have lots of experience and set up good programs in terms of caring for the children and identifying who is an appropriate candidate for an adoption.
Bond is most impressed about how serious the Chinese government is about protecting its children. "They make sure that whenever an adoption is taking place, it is appropriate and is the best thing for that child. Both birth families and adopting families are carefully informed and well prepared."
Soon after the case of an American father sexually abusing his Chinese adoptive daughter in December, officials from China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) announced a series of measures to protect the rights and interests of Chinese adoptive children, including a possible change in post-placement reporting policies.
"Although this is a very rare case, it had negative effects on inter-country adoptions in China and is against the healthy development of inter-country adoption," the CCAA said in a statement.
It also suggested that government departments and adoption agencies do follow-up reports on all children adopted from China.
"Whatever China elects to do in that respect, we would fully endorse and encourage families to completely comply," Bond said.
The US official noted that one of the many benefits of inter-country adoptions is that "a link is forged between the two countries as each child has a huge impact on Americans' appreciation for China".