Five myths on China adoptions

“Special Needs” Adoptions from China — Top 5 Misconceptions
By Holt International
Eugene, Oregon

Less than five years ago, when discussing adoption from China, a very clear picture came to mind.

From reports in the media as well as information circulating the adoption community, prospective families had developed a very vivid picture of healthy infant girls living in crowded orphanages – an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy, and a culture that traditionally values sons more than daughters.

With such great need for families, the process to adopt from China was also relatively quick. Throughout the last decade, this clear need – and speedy process – compelled thousands of hopeful families to adopt from China.

Since that time, the face of international adoption from China has dramatically changed. Although the need remains strong and compelling, the picture is less clear – of both the children who need families, and the process to adopt them. As a result, some misconceptions about adopting from China have emerged within the community – and are, consequently, holding families back from beginning the process.

Below, Beth Smith, Holt’s director of social services for China, has shared five of the most common misconceptions among families – as well as the facts about those issues.

Misconception #1: China’s orphanages are still overwhelmed with abandoned, healthy infant girls. In China, attitudes toward girls are progressively changing. China’s growing economy has also given families greater resources to care for their children. As a result, more Chinese couples are adopting healthy children domestically. Now, most children living in China’s social welfare system have some degree of special medical or developmental condition, or are older. Many of them are also boys.

Misconception #2: It takes 5+ years to adopt from China. With Holt, the process to adopt a child with an identified special medical or developmental condition, or anolder child, takes between 12-18 months from application to placement. To adopt a child with no identified special needs, the process does currently stand at well over 5 years, and growing.

Misconception #3: Special needs = Severely disabled, requiring very involved, lifelong care. In truth, over 85% of the children Holt places from China have minor, manageable or correctable conditions, and are under 2 years old. They are usually matched with families before they ever appear on a photolisting.

Misconception #4: When adopting through the special needs process, the adoption agency just “assigns” a child to a family. When matching children with families, we truly strive to learn what families are open to, and comfortable with, and seek a match that fits. When applying, families complete a checklist marking the conditions they are open to considering. Although families may change the form as they learn about different special needs, we always strictly adhere to what families have marked on this checklist.

Misconception #5: Families will be “judged” or penalized for not being open to very many special needs. On the contrary, we truly try to emphasize to couples the importance of knowing yourself, knowing each other and knowing the child you feel comfortable to parent. If a family reviews a child’s file and decides that they cannot proceed, there is no penalty. No “bad” list. No going to the end of an imaginary line. We simply try again, this time with greater clarity.

Beth Smith has overseen Holt’s China program for 13 years. “It has warmed my heart to see how families have truly embraced these recent changes in adoption from China,” she says. “To see families shift their vision from a ‘little girl with pigtails’ to a 2-year-old boy with a cleft lip or an infant with a minor heart condition, and report back eight months later that they’re completely in love with their child, is truly amazing. And I look forward to the day when the families applying to adopt a child with special needs outnumber the children now eligible for adoption.”

For more info on adopting a child through Holt’s China program, be sure to register for an upcoming China program webinar on the 15th and 28th! In this webinar, Beth will share about Holt’s unique approach. You’ll also hear from a family who recently completed the process.

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