More than 5,000 children have been orphaned by the earthquake in Sichuan, and with 18,000 people still unaccounted for, that number is sure to rise. For the last three weeks, phones have been ringing off the hook at Chinese Civil Affairs departments, the agencies that handle adoption in China. International adoption groups have also been flooded with calls.
More Americans adopt from China than from any other country. Last year, Americans adopted more than 5,000 children from China, but that’s far fewer than the nearly 8,000 in 2005. The drop is partially due to a series of regulations passed last year (which Simon blogged about here), barring older (50+), obese, parents with a criminal record from adopting Chinese children. But the falling number also reflects the changing attitude toward adoption in China. Since the one-child policy was enacted in the late 70s, the government hasn’t made domestic adoption easy. But with rising incomes and rising concern over how international adoptions affect China’s reputation abroad, domestic adoption is on the rise. (This CCTV report lists the requirements Chinese parents must meet in order to adopt orphans from the quake.)
Given the number of Chinese couples who have come forward, overseas parents will have little chance of adopting these children. Authorities are giving priority to relatives—people who these children already know, and people who can provide a bit of stability in the children’s post-earthquake lives. If relatives can’t be located, preference will most likely be given to Chinese parents, some of whom are eager to have a second child. Many of the children are old enough to remember this nightmare. Why make them face any more big changes to their lives? Can you imagine having to cope with losing your parents, getting to know new parents, and then moving to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language? If you don’t live in China, the best way to help these children is to donate money.