We get asked a lot of questions, both via our website and our Facebook page. And many are excellent questions too, questions we see asked again and again. Questions that deserve an answer. So we decided to try to answer some – as best as we can – in post format, so that others who might have the very same question can find answers before they even have to ask.
Question 1: My husband and I would really like to start the adoption process from China for a child with special needs. I know that recently the requirements have changed to only 5 children in the home. We currently have 6 children in our home under 18. Does this mean there is no possibility that we can adopt from China?
The short answer is, unfortunately, yes. It does mean you cannot adopt from China at this time. The good news though is that once your oldest child turns 18 you would again be eligible to adopt from China (assuming you meet all of the other criteria). In June of 2017, the CCCWA announced updated eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents. In addition, in and in December of 2017 the CCCWA confirmed that effective January 2018 it would no longer approve any waivers for prospective adoptive parents who dod not meet China’s eligibility criteria for adopting.
Prior to January 2018, the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) allowed exceptions to the eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents in the form of waivers. This allowed agencies to request waivers on behalf of families who did not meet all of the eligibility requirements and the CCCWA would determine if the waiver would be granted. Waivers were commonly granted for prospective adoptive parents who did not meet requirements for a variety of reasons, including: income, net worth, family size, length of marriage, and BMI. Unfortunately, to my knowledge and as of the publication of this post, the CCCWA has maintained their stance on waivers.
We asked Karla Thrasher from Lifeline Children’s Services for her insight on options For those who do not meet the family size eligibility requirements for China:
“Colombia, Hungary and Bulgaria are all great options for larger families.
Colombia is Lifeline’s largest adoption program in Latin America! It is an excellent program for families open to adopting children who may be older than 9 years old, who may be any age with a medical special need (which can vary from mild to severe), or are in sibling groups (where ages of the children may vary depending on the number of siblings in the group). This program takes approximately 1-2 years to complete (but could be more or less depending on the circumstance). This country has a 3-4 week in country stay, where one parent may leave after week 1 or 2. Married couples or single mothers can adopt from this program. We have an (un)adopted ministry in Bogota, Colombia.
Hungary is a special needs program, however the needs are often minor or are solely a developmental delay. Sibling groups and single children are available. For single children, we prefer families to be prepared for age 3-4 at the youngest. Occasionally younger children are seen, but this cannot be guaranteed or predicted. Hungary does not maintain a waiting child list for children, so all families will be waiting for a referral. The process time frame is 1-2 years, depending on the age range and special needs a family is open to. Required travel to Hungary is 6 weeks. Hungary requires that the adoptive child be the youngest child in the home.
There are two options for being matched in Bulgaria. The first is through pre-identifying a child from the waiting child list. Children who are listed on the waiting child list are typically older or have significant special needs. We do receive new children frequently and strive to keep the list current. If a family matches through the waiting child list, the process is usually about a year. The second option for matching is to wait for a referral from the Ministry of Justice. This can be a much longer process, depending on the age and special needs a family is interested in pursuing.
Here are the estimated referral wait times given by our in country team (in addition to this wait time, you can anticipate another year to complete the rest of the process):
0-3 year old child : 3-4 years
0-5 year old child : 2-3 years
5-7 year old child : 2 years
7-9 year old child : 1 years
9 years and up : 2-6 months
Bulgaria is a two trip process, the first trip is right at one week and the second trip is 12-14 days. Prospective adoptive couples must be married at least one year and must be at least 15 years older than the child that they are seeking to adopt. Parents cannot exceed 50 years over the age of the child.”
Question 2: We are in the process of our second adoption from China. Last time, the orphanage donation ($5,000) was mandatory, but this time the new rules are that it’s not. How are other families handling this? We want to donate, but not sure which is the best way to do so (orphanage fee vs. other non-profit organization).
This is a complicated question and not one that can be answered definitively. My goal in answering this question is not to tell families what they should do but instead to provide information so that they may make the an informed decision. The orphanage donation (approximately $5300-$5500 in 2017) has been a part of the China adoption process for years and although it has alway been called a donation it was presented and understood by those in the adoption community as a required fee. This fee was paid by the adoptive parent(s) to the orphanage which held custody of the child regardless of who had cared for the child (i.e. foster family, NGO).
On December 7, 2017, the CCCWA issued a public notice regarding the orphanage donations by adoptive parents. The notice explained that adoptive parents may now offer a voluntary donation to the child welfare institute after the adoption registration is finalized, and that the amount and method of submitting the donation should be left to the adoptive parents. In addition, this donation and should is not to be made until after the adoption is registered in the province. As you can imagine, this change sent the China adoption community into a tailspin and created a difficult decision for families adopting in 2018 and beyond.
Meredith Toering, who runs Morning Star Foundation, a non-profit organization that works directly with orphanages to provide care for children with severe heart disease in China, shared this poignant and informative post on Facebook following the orphanage donation announcement (reposted here with permission):
“I run Morning Star, a foster home in Beijing, and this topic has been devastating me. I was at [a] social welfare institute (SWI/orphanage) last week checking on [a sweet baby], and have been in the middle of discussions with several SWIs that I currently have children in my home from right now. I have been asking them to please start to prepare the paperwork for these kids, because I realized the orphanages had stopped reaching out to ME about paperwork needed to complete files for most of the kids.
In at least three specific cases with separate orphanages that I have spoken to, they have told me that they no longer want to prepare files for international adoption because “the cost and the time is no longer worth it.” There are hundreds, if not thousands of babies in orphanages. The government pays a stipend depending on how many children are in the orphanage at any given time. Quite simply: many orphanages are struggling for funds, and financially — they need that stipend for EVERY child. They lose money when they lose a child to adoption. It’s a broken scenario, but that’s the deal.
Second: it costs a substantial amount for a child’s file to be created. It is so much more than just the little check off box. There are notary fees and document shipping fees and authentication fees, and on and on and on. Not to mention anything medical. Every echocardiogram, every test, every CT or MRI or scrap of medical info that we are all so desperately looking for in those files? That all comes out of pocket from the SWI paying hospitals for those tests for the kids. Things are cheaper in China, yes. But that can easily be hundreds of dollars.
Third: it is a ridiculous, genuine hassle for orphanages to prepare this paperwork. I know because I/we have to do just a small part of it when the orphanages ask us for information and paperwork for the children we are fostering to include in their files. There is schlepping all over town to get the pictures that you need… the right documents… finding the right person who can give the right signature at the right time. Scheduling all the appointments and taking the time to fill out all those forms. It is an entire job… and they are trying to do it for child after child after child, and now seeing that the result is NOT worth all their effort.
Maybe your child didn’t receive the best care in the orphanage… maybe you think the director is going to misuse and mishandle the money. Maybe so. As with any charitable donation, once the funds are out of your hands — given — it is technically out of your control. What I have seen, more times than not, is that the orphanages are trying the very best they can with the resources that they have.
Many times, people have donated here on the other side to fund OUR adoptions, and they don’t get to specify where the money goes, how it will be used… whether or not you choose to upgrade to economy plus or tack on a trip to Hong Kong Disney or eat the nice Western meal while in China or whatever it may be. Those choices aren’t questioned and we aren’t called out by the adoption community to give a detailed account of how each and every dollar that was donated to us was spent because of the gift of the benefit of the doubt, trusting that we hold the best interest of bringing our child home at heart.
That same child is the most important thing we bring home from this trip, and thanking their first home for the care they were given (whatever that standard of care may have been) by means of financial donation is, quite honestly, the most important donation you will make throughout this entire process.
Could we not extend that same grace and gift we so easily give to adoptive families working to bring their children home… to these SWIs in China, most of whom are doing the absolute BEST they can with the very little that they have… and trust that regardless of how our donation issued dollar for dollar, we are continuing to pave the road for families to come behind us… as those who came before us did for us? Sorry for the novel. Just my two cents from someone on this side of the ocean working closely in this space.”
Because the original question was how are other families handling the orphanage donation now I asked that very question in a small group of adoptive parents and am sharing a few of their responses below with permission:
“We donated the full amount. It would have been unethical for us to give anything less as we had applied for and received many adoption grants. And those grants were awarded to us by organizations that were calculating the full donation into our expenses (when we applied for the grants the donation was still required). Had we donated less or none it would have been equivalent to pocketing those generous grant monies. Aside from that we would still gladly donate the full amount because it is the right thing to do. A lot of families seemed to donate to a NGO where their child was cared for instead the SWI/CWI and I believe this has gravely affected the orphanages and their willingness and ability to prepare files for more children.” ~ K
“We gave the full amount and extra. We now have 3 boys from China. Two are from the same orphanage. I am forever in their debt for the care that my sons both received there. I saw the children left behind. I saw the now 17 year old foster brother of both my boys, that the SWI is still allowing to live there at an expense to them. A SWI is not a place that children should grow up. Files are expensive and need to be made to give these children a chance! I would continue to donate to them on a monthly basis if I could find a way to do so.” ~ JB
“Paid full amount. It’s a drop in the bucket when considering the life-saving surgery both of our Nanchang girls received in their care. Plus, I don’t even really think of it as a donation for the care my child received but for the care the other kids left behind can get. It was never a question for us when it became optional.” ~ T
“I gave the full amount. My daughter was only in the SWI a few hours. Her care was paid for by several NGOs. I still gave to the SWI because I was concerned if people started giving to the NGOs instead, the SWI wouldn’t reach out for help with the sickest kids. My daughter would have died if she had not been sent out of province for care.” ~ B
“We are in process now and will be donating the full amount plus more. Our family feels it is one of the most important fees paid. Our older daughters also adopted from China have been raising money on their own all summer so they can give an additional donation on top of the regular donation. In my 12 yr old’s words, “If even one cent of the donation goes toward a better life for one of my fellow China sisters or brothers, then it is worth it. The donation has been there for over 20 years. Families adopting now need to remember the families that paid the donation fee before them. The donation allowed for the preparation of the files of children who are being adopted now. If we stop paying it forward it will only hurt the children currently in the orphanages because less files are being prepared.” ~ JA
Although all of the families quoted above chose to donate the full amount I know many families are donating much less and some are not donating at all. Sources within the China adoption community who work directly with orphanages have reported that families are donating only a fraction of the original amount; and orphanages have stated that they do not plan to continue to prepare adoption files due to lack of funds.
If you have read any of the numerous posts or comments in the China Adoption Facebook groups regarding the new orphanage donation policy please also read this post by Tammy Wombles in which she specifically addresses several of the posts/concerns. Since 2005 Tammy has been volunteer at a large government-run orphanage and works closely with the orphanage as a liaison between orphanage staff and adoptive parents.
In the end, I think we can all agree that this is a very personal decision for each family and one that should not be taken lightly or made in haste. I would encourage families who are currently in process to do their research before making this important decision.
For those interested in learning and reading more check out these links:
The Price of the Orphanage ‘Donation’
Discontinuation of Mandatory Orphanage Donations in China
How the Foreign NGO Law Has Affected International Adoption
Have a question for us? Ask it here and we’ll do our best to answer it in a future post!