(written on December 21, 2006)
Why Choose China?
(Note: this article addresses adoption of children without special needs. The process is somewhat different for parents adopting children with special needs.)
Some of the most common reasons parents choose to adopt from the People's Republic of China (PRC) are
- Ethics. The PRC's program is well-established, complies with the Hague Convention, and has comparably fewer incidents of corruption.
- Community. Because the PRC's program is well-established, there is a correspondingly well-established network of parents who have adopted from the PRC.
- Familiarity. Some people are drawn to the PRC's program because they have a friend or family member who has had a positive experience with Chinese adoption.
- Gender preference. Most of the children adopted from the PRC are girls, and there is an overall preference for adopting girls, especially intercountry adoption.
- Certainty. Once parents obtain adoption approvals from their agency and home country's government, adoption from the PRC is generally a matter of "when" not "if."
- Confidentiality. The PRC's program is more "closed" than other countries, meaning that currently there is little or no possibility of contact with birth parents.
- Economics. The fees for the PRC's program are among the lowest of intercountry adoption programs, and parents are only required to travel once.
- Health. The health report that accompanies the child's referral is reportedly reliable, and evidence of in-utero exposure to drugs or alcohol is rare.
- Humanitarianism. Some people choose the PRC because they have seen or read something that has led them to believe that there are children who would otherwise grow up in orphanages if not adopted by people outside the PRC.
- Culture. Some people choose the PRC because they are of Chinese (or other Asian) descent, or because they have an affinity for Chinese culture or people.
What to Expect
Outline of process
Adopting a child from the PRC who has not been identified as having special needs follows a straightforward and predictable process. Parents who qualify to adopt from the PRC first select an agency. Then, the parents obtain the necessary government permits and complete any paperwork required by the agency -- for example, a home study, background checks, personal statements, and adoption coursework. This part of the process usually take a minimum of 3 months, but can take a year or more.
Once the parents complete their pre-adoption requirements, their paperwork -- known as a "dossier" -- is transmitted to the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). The date that the dossier is sent to the CCAA is called DTC (dossier to China).
The CCAA conducts an initial review of the dossier and then logs it into their system. The date that the dossier is logged in at CCAA is called LID (log in date). In general, the LID is about 2-4 weeks after DTC.
The CCAA processes the applications in LID order. Each dossier is matched with an available child, and the CCAA sends out batches of referrals to the agencies every 25-35 days. Usually referrals consist of photo(s) and a health report, and parents have the option to accept or reject the referral. Parents who accept their referral can expect to receive their travel authorization from the PRC 3-5 weeks later, and will travel 4-8 weeks after that.
Parents are given full custody of their children within the first few days after arrival and remain in the PRC for a total of about two weeks to complete official adoption paperwork. During this time, parents bond with their children and do a little sightseeing. Depending on where the parents live, there may be additional official paperwork necessary to complete the adoption upon returning home.
The CCAA requires families to file post-placement reports after the adoption is complete. These reports are due at 6 months and 12 months after adoption. In addition, if the child remains a PRC citizen, parents must file post-placement reports every 6 months.
Time frames from DTC to travel have been increasing steadily since 2005. For example, families with LIDs in mid-August 2005 did not travel until December 2006 (approximately 16 months from DTC to travel) -- about double the time frame from what it was for families with LIDs in late 2004/early 2005 (approximately 8 months from DTC to travel). See this post for a discussion about the current slow-down in referrals and application trends.
It is not clear how much longer the time frames will continue to increase, but the CCAA hopes that the upcoming revisions to its adoption criteria will eventually help reduce the time frames to 8-9 months from DTC to travel. To estimate referral time frames, based on current data, see the calculator at this website.
The CCAA's requirements for adopting from the PRC are posted here. If you are a United States citizen, the State Department information on adopting from the PRC is here.
People of Chinese descent may be eligible to have their dossiers processed on an expedited schedule.
The CCAA is updating its policies and will soon announce revised criteria for eligibility to adopt from the PRC. These criteria have already been unofficially released to adoption agencies, and are expected to be applicable to dossiers sent to the CCAA after May 1, 2007. Some agencies already have the expected changes posted on their websites, but contact your agency for specifics.
COMMON ISSUES SPECIFIC TO CHINA
Eligibility under revised criteria
Parents who do not expect to be able to meet the revised eligibility criteria should get started as soon as possible to complete the necessary paperwork, including the home study and any government permits before early April 2007 (assuming it takes about a month between DTC and LID). In the US, obtaining advanced processing approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) can take a month or more after the application is complete. In addition, all documents must be translated and authenticated before a dossier can be sent to the PRC. Expect additional time for completing these steps as it's likely that there will be a large number of parents trying to get their paperwork in before the revisions take effect.
One consequence of the increased time frames is that some adoption paperwork may need to be updated or renewed while waiting for referral. For example, the I-171H issued by the USCIS is only valid for 18 months, and FBI fingerprinting is valid for less than that. Also, most home studies are only valid for one year before they need to be updated. Parents who are currently preparing their dossiers should expect that their paperwork will expire and factor this cost into their adoption budget.
If your adoption or home study agency has a email newsletter, subscribe to it to keep abreast of changes in the PRC's program. Many people also monitor this website and its forums for updates and speculation on referral trends.
You can connect with other parents adopting from the PRC online. There are yahoogroups, such as the very large Adoptive Parents China (APC) yahoogroup, as well as yahoogroups for individual DTC months and agencies. Also, the link to the "Why China" series of posts is a good starting point for connecting with the active community of Chinese adoptive parent bloggers.
You can also visit Families with Children from China to see if there is an FWCC group in your area where you can meet parents and prospective parents who have adopted from the PRC.
Adopting a post-institutionalized child can be challenging. Transracial and/or transcultural adoption can be challenging. This website is an excellent resource for information on attachment and identity to use as a starting point for parents and their families. There are links to websites with further information, as well as book recommendations.