25 Factors to Consider When Adopting From China
Click on each factor to learn more. Current as of January, 2016. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an agency that places from this country for the most current information.
+ Parental Age
Parents must be at least 30 years old. The younger parent must be no more than 50 years older than the child. Single parents must be no more than 45 years older than the child.
+ Length of Marriage
2 years if neither parent has been divorced, 5 years if either parent has been divorced. Exceptions are allowed on a case-by-case basis.
+ Medical Restrictions
Parents must not have a medical condition that affects their life expectancy or ability to parent. Parents are ineligible to adopt if any of the following conditions apply to either parent:
- Mental disabilities;
- HIV/ AIDS;
- Infectious disease that is actively contagious;
- Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more.
Parents with the following mental disorders are eligible to adopt as long as the disorder is minor and well controlled by medication:
Families with the following conditions are eligible to adopt as long as one parent is completely healthy and the condition is well controlled with treatment:
- Malignant tumors;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Organ transplant within the last ten years;
- Severe hearing loss/deafness or loss of language function (if both parents have this condition, they are eligible to adopt a child with the same condition).
China has recently relaxed restrictions on parental medical eligibility and exceptions are made. Families with any of the conditions listed here should contact an adoption agency with a China program to discuss their specific situation.
+ Single Applicant
Single women are allowed to adopt a special focus child listed on the Special Needs System of CCCWA (China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) or non-special focus child. Applicants must be at least 30 and no more than 45 years older than the child. Applicants should be experienced in childcare or have a child related occupation (doctor, nurse, teacher, etc.). The applicant can have no more than 2 children at home, and the youngest must be at least 5 years old. Applicants must have a minimum net worth of $100,000 with an annual income of $10,000 per family member (including the prospective adoptee), plus an additional $10,000.
+ Children Available
Children with minor/correctable special needs (referred to as non-special focus) 18 months to 13 years old, children with moderate to major special needs (referred to as special focus) 18 months to 13 years old. Some children with correctable special needs have already received treatment, but are still considered special focus. Sibling groups are rare.
Boys and girls; parents may request a gender.
+ Referral Method
Agencies with access to CCCWA’s list of children with special needs propose the match between the parents and a child. A shared list exists of children with special needs that all agencies that place children from China have access to. However, the CCCWA continues to assign specific special needs referrals (children with a “special focus” designation) to some agencies individually, so not all referrals are shared. Some agencies have orphanage partnerships sanctioned by the CCCWA. These orphanages refer special focus and non-special focus (minor special needs) children directly to the agency. Once a family received a referral, they have 72 hours to decide whether to accept it and submit the paperwork to complete the dossier. The time limit is to ensure that a child is not taken off the special needs list until a family is committed to adopt that child. If the paperwork is not submitted within 72 hours, the child’s name goes back on the list and other parents can review the file.
+ Travel in Country
1 trip, approximately 2 weeks long. Only one parents is required to travel, but it is strongly recommended that both parents make the trip. Parents often travel in groups accompanied by a bilingual guide, although not necessarily, especially with special needs adoptions. Once Travel Approval has been issued by the CCCWA, parents have 3 months to travel. Parents travel to the capital of their child’s province to take custody of their child and complete the adoption. Before returning to the US, they must visit the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to apply for their child’s visa.
+ Wait For Referral (After Dossier Submitted)
10+ years for healthy, young children and the wait continues to increase. For families submitting a dossier now, we can’t predict the wait time. It is slightly quicker for families of Chinese heritage (for example, perhaps 7 years instead of 10 years). Due to the extremely long wait, most agencies are not accepting applications for “healthy” children.
1 to 9 months for special needs children. The timing varies based on parents’ openness to different special needs, gender and age. The more open the parents are, the shorter the wait. 68% of families are matched 6 months. 86% are matched within 12 months. It is possible to complete a special needs adoption in 1 year.
+ Orphanage/Foster Care
Usually orphanage, but foster care and group homes becoming more common in some provinces, particularly for care of special needs children.
+ How Children Enter Government Care
Abandonment. The assumption is that babies are abandoned due to legal restrictions on family size, unwed mothers, birth families unable to care for a child’s special need(s) and a societal preference for boys.
+ Prevalence of FASD
Historically there has been little alcohol use among pregnant women in China although social conditions are changing. The assumption is that most were wanted pregnancies, which may indicate better prenatal habits. IA doctors generally report seeing very few children with a concern for FAS.
+ Adequacy of Medical Reports
Good; medical reports from China have improved dramatically in recent years. Children have a full medical screening (that includes complete blood counts, and tests for liver enzymes or TTT (Thymol Turbidity Test), Hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV), and lab reports are fairly accurate. Growth and developmental measurements are taken when the child enters the orphanage. It is becoming increasingly common for updated measurements to be taken. The medical report usually includes a detailed account of how the child was found, with a discussion of the child’s daily eating and sleeping pattern. Some files are more complete than others but it is possible to request additional information. There is rarely birth family or prenatal history.
+ Program Stability
Stable. I know some will disagree with this rating, but in my opinion, even though wait times have increased dramatically, the China adoption process continues to be a relatively predictable, streamlined and transparent process. It has, however, become a special needs adoption program due to the unrealistic wait for a child without special needs.
+ Post Adoption Reports
Required at 6 and 12 months, and then annually for four years. The first three reports must be prepared by a social worker or adoption agency. The last three reports may be prepared by the family.
+ Additional Information
- IA doctors note that although developmental delays are common when children first arrive home, most children are otherwise in good health.
- Some Waiting Children are marked as “special focus,” which means that the child has significant or multiple special needs and has been on the shared list for more than 60 days.
- Home studies must be performed by a Hague or COA accredited agency.
- If you are applying for a non-special needs child, parts of your dossier paperwork will expire during your wait and will have to be renewed at least once.
- The CCCWA sometimes requires a “psychological report” supplemental to the home study for applicants who have received or are receiving therapy.
- Applicants are ineligible to adopt if they have a criminal history of domestic violence; child abuse; drug use including opium, morphine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine; or alcohol abuse less than ten years old. If the parents have less than 4 minor criminal records more than ten years old or less than 6 traffic violations with no severe outcomes, they may be eligible to adopt from China. Check with an adoption agency with a China program to discuss your specific situation.
- Income requirement guidelines: $30,000 per family plus $10,000 for each child already in home, with a minimum net worth of $80,000. Single women must have a net worth of $100,000. However, if the family lives in an area where local cost of living is lower and they have above average income for their area, an exception to these income requirements may be made.
- Parents are required to make a “donation” to the child welfare institution that cared for the child. Most agencies include this cost in their program fee and this money was included in the cost estimate in this chart. Parents must carry approximately $5,400 in US dollars with them when they travel (exact amount fluctuates with currency exchange rate). Some agencies will wire the money in advance.
- Applicants must have at least a high school diploma.
- Children are required to have a TB test before a visa will be issued.
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Image credit: Meng Zhang