China adoption related news

There have been several announcements this week which are related to China adoption.

On January 21st, Bethany announced they will not be renewing their international accreditation when it expires on March 31st. They will now be focusing solely on US domestic adoption.

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AAC Adoption notified their families on January 23rd that they also plan to let their international accreditation lapse. Their accreditation is valid through September of this year. Although the email sent to families was shared with me, there has not yet been a public announcement.

Given that BAAS relinquished their accreditation at the end of December to merge their international programs with Adopt International, people have now lost several popular agency choices. This seems to be confirming the speculation that WACAP’s merger with Holt last year was the beginning of a trend because the international adoption market will not support the number of US agencies with international programs. This makes it vitally important that you consider the financial stability of an agency when you are choosing a provider.

Also this week, IAAME published the suspension of accreditation of three different agencies. Small World is the only one which had a China program. As Small World was not required to transfer their cases it is likely they will be able to continue services within a few weeks for the families currently in process with them.

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Finally, with the Chinese government on high alert because of the coronavirus adoption travel is likely to be disrupted because of the instituted shutdowns. Hubei specifically is being effected at the moment but some agencies have informed families that the CCCWA notified them families will need to reschedule adoption appointments with Civil Affairs. If you are a family who is planning travel in the near future your agency is the best source of information for how your travel might be effected.

Representation matters in more ways than one

A couple years ago I started a day job as a part time school librarian. There is an intersection of adoption and children’s books more often than you might think. The school library I am caretaker for contains books from quite a few decades. You can see the changing racial attitudes mirrored in the books produced at the time. Picture books have come a long way in their inclusivity. “Representation Matters” is a frequent slogan to underscore the idea that children need to read books which show children like themselves. However, publishing houses still have unconscious biases and blind spots. It would be easier to find the Fountain of Youth than to find a picture book which shows anyone anywhere in the massive continent of Africa living in a city. I mean, there are 13 million people living in Lagos, Nigeria (shown below) which is more than 4 times the population of my home state of Kentucky, but it’s grass huts as far as the eye can see in picture books.

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A similar blind spot exists where Asians and Christmas are concerned. While publishers have finally realized Christmas is celebrated by more than just white people and talking animals, the many diverse Christmas pictures books published with the past decade haven’t yet grown to include Asians. In December, someone asked online for suggestions of Christmas picture books featuring Asians. The response was a collective shrug. “Christmas isn’t really an Asian thing.” was a typical reply. It is unclear if that referred to Asian as in the region of the world or to an ethnic minority here in the US. Presumably since we’re discussing Christmas picture books in English for American children the implication is that Asians here in America completely ignore Christmas in favor of the lunar New Year. The problem with that is it isn’t true. There are people here in America whose ancestors immigrated from China in the late 1800’s. Even the relatively “new” wave of immigrants from the 1970’s or later participate in American cultural holidays. When I lived in graduate student housing international students from across Asia bought small Christmas trees to decorate in their apartments because it was fun. Now I live in a suburb and I see Asian American families putting up lights the same as the European American families.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.10.42 AMThe one book which several people suggested was Yoon and the Christmas Mitten. This is a sequel to the book My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits which won several awards when it was published in 2003. My Name Is Yoon is about a Korean family who immigrates to America. Yoon is reluctant to write her name in English at school because she prefers the way it looks in Korean. In the end, her father urges her to learn to write in English because they are American now. I found it to be positive and respectful. However, Yoon and the Christmas Mitten is almost the situation in reverse as Yoon learns about Christmas at school and begs her parents to celebrate the holiday. Her parents say “Little Yoon, we aren’t a Christmas family. Our holiday is New Year’s Day.” After Yoon reminds them that they are supposed to be American now, they put some candy in the mitten she has hung on Christmas Eve.

There is a huge glaring plot hole here which the average American wouldn’t catch. Of all the East Asian countries Recorvits could have chosen, Korea is the worst choice for the book she wrote. Korea has a very long history of Christianity. Today Korea is about one third Christian, a far larger percentage than any other East Asian country. Christmas is a national holiday in Korea!  It has been since 1945. Although the time frame of the book is unclear, Yoon’s family should have at least been familiar with Christmas. When Yoon tells her father about Santa Claus, he says “We are Korean. Santa Claus is not our custom.” But, in reality Korea has their own version of Santa Claus.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.09.39 AMConsider how different the message of the story would be if Yoon’s family were new immigrants who joined a Korean Christian church in their community. When Christmas rolled around, the familiarity of the holiday gives Yoon’s family a feeling of connection and belonging to their new country. When Yoon’s teacher reads the class a book about Santa Claus, Yoon shares with the class that they have Santa Claus in Korea, too. Instead of decorating “Christmas bushes” with bread crumbs, Yoon could decorate a Christmas tree with her family the same way they did in Korea. 

As it is written Yoon and the Christmas Mitten reinforces the idea that Asians are perpetual foreigners in America. We can’t imagine an America where Asians are decorating trees, putting up lights, and making Christmas cookies. The only way we can put Asians and Christmas together is a book where “real” Americans explain to the Asian family what Christmas is. Yoon must persuade her family to cast aside their foreign skepticism of Christmas if they want to try to assimilate. An Asian child who reads this book would only see themselves represented as an outsider. Yes, it is important that you share books with Asian characters with your child so they see themselves represented. However, it isn’t enough to simply have an Asian character. Please carefully consider the message of the book whether it is a “classic” like Tikki Tikki Tembo or a newer book like The Ugly Dumpling which portrays Chinese food as ugly and Chinese restaurants as unsanitary. The two articles I linked to in this paragraph will help you to gain perspective on potentially problematic elements in stories.

Trial new matching method for LID files

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Recently there have been some rumors that the CCCWA will be changing their method of matching files again. There have been a lot of complaints since the partnerships ended that some agencies are unable to lock LID files from the shared list. If you look at the number of files uploaded on file release dates, the number of LID files is usually under 10. There are 70+ agencies around the world are all trying to lock this handful of files at the same time.

One agency has sent out information to their waiting families which says that the CCCWA will begin testing a new matching method this month. This matching method only applies to the LID files, which can only be matched to a family who already has their dossier logged in to China’s system. For the 17 new LID designated files this month, each agency can submit the name of one family they would like to match with that file. The CCCWA will choose which family is matched with the file by LID date. The family still has 72 hours to review the file and make a decision. I would guess if they decide to decline the file the CCCWA will match it with another family but it’s possible they could move it to the shared list instead.

This method of matching is a mix of special needs program matching with the old NSN (“healthy” child program). The CCCWA assigned files to families under the NSN program with agencies and families having no role in matching. In later years, the CCCWA has matched NSN files with submitted dossiers according to LID date. The special needs program has always relied on agencies matching the files so they know the family is comfortable with the child’s special need. For this new trial method, the agency is still proposing the match, so the CCCWA does not have the responsibility of determining whether a child’s needs are a good fit for a family. The CCCWA is going to decide from the dozens of proposed families which one will be able to review the file.

The CCCWA has said that they will decide by LID date which family is matched with the child, as they did in the NSN program. If one of their concerns is the equitable distribution of the files, they might determine generally by LID date but also rotating around the agencies so that if an agency had a family matched with a LID file recently they won’t receive a file for a while even if their family has the oldest LID date. If they do this for all agencies across the world who have a China program, that could mean that agencies only get one or two LID files to match per year.

Let me give an illustration for this change. In the China program, hundreds of families are competing for the prize of a young child with minor needs. With the shared list system, all of the agencies were lined up and whichever agency hit the button a millisecond faster than the others won the prize for a family at their agency. The new method is more like a contest where there are semifinalists chosen but the one with the earliest entry submission wins. This is also a good illustration for how many more families there are who want to adopt a young child as healthy as possible than there are children like that available.

China has been transitioning to a moderate needs/older child program for several years now. The amount of LID files posted to the shared list is only a fraction of what were received by agencies under the partnership system. Critics of partnerships pointed out that orphanages would feel pressured to produce LID files since they were receiving resources from their partner agency. Seemingly many of those files could now be being matched domestically. Love Without Boundaries posts about the rise in domestic adoption numbers annually. In addition, more families have access to health care thanks to how much China has invested into their health care system over the past ten years making it likely that fewer children with minor needs are being abandoned. Finally, there has been some discussion that orphanages are preparing fewer files now that the orphanage donation is voluntary. Regardless of the cause of the decrease in files of young children with minor needs, it is evident that like the infamous “slowdown” of 2006, this is a permanent shift in the China program, not a temporary one.

What I’m Reading #22

Holt’s post adoption services has a video series on the process of searching for birth parents.

A family shares their experience adopting a Deaf child on No Hands But Ours.

Elizabeth at Ordinary Time has a frank discussion on attachment.

Love Without Boundaries blogs about foster care in China and the trend back toward institutionalization which is occurring.

Liz Larson posts on how to build a loving bond with your child from Day 1.

Books For Littles has an adoptee written blog post discussing children’s books about and featuring adoption.

Sixth Tone has an article discussing the lives of orphans who age out of Chinese orphanages.

A review of the documentary One Child Nation.

NPR has an excellent article about how access to health care has changed over the past decade in China. This is directly relevant to China adoption as many children are abandoned because of the high cost of medical care.

CNN reports on a study which finds that many of China’s “missing girls” were actually unregistered.

Red Table Talk (Jada and Willow Smith with Gammy) features an interview a black transracial adoptee about her experience growing up in an all white family in an all white town.

CCAI Temporary Cessation of China Program

I received a notice today from the US State Department that CCAI’s has been ordered by IAAME, the accrediting entity, to have a temporary cessation of their China program. You can read the notice online here. The length of the cessation was not mentioned but typically temporary suspensions are for 10 days. I will update as more information becomes known.

Here are the substantiated claims found by IAAME.

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If you are currently in process with CCAI please be assured that you will be contacted by them with information on how this will effect your process. Most people will not be effected at all but some families will have a minor delay.

USCIS changes may effect children adopted by military families stationed overseas

On August 28th, USCIS issued a policy update which states that US military or government employees stationed overseas are no longer considered “residing in the US” for citizenship purposes. Almost immediately, articles were published with headlines stating military dependents born overseas will no longer be natural born US citizens. Because of the confusion, additional clarifications were made. Military families and expatriates do adopt internationally so this policy update has caused a lot of anxiety within the international adoption community.

I took the time to read through the actual document as well as news articles from a variety of sources. HOWEVER, I am not an immigration expert. Nor have I ever been in the military or resided overseas. This is simply my understanding of the changes.

First, some people were concerned that because internationally adopted children were born to non-US citizens, that makes them ineligible to become citizens. However, at the point of legal adoption, you become the child’s parents. They are not considered natural born US citizens, but their citizenship is derived from your citizenship. Adoption is specifically addressed in the document.

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So, as long at least one adoptive parent is a US citizen, your child is eligible to become a US citizen. But all of these conditions must be met. That means if you are not residing in the United States when the child is adopted, the residency requirement is not met. This is detailed in the footnotes for the above section.

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For US citizen parents residing in the United States, their child’s citizenship is processed upon landing at a US port of entry. Previously, expatriates who adopted still needed to make a trip back to the Unites States to “activate” their child’s US citizenship. Most would make a short trip back to the US after the adoption was finalized in country, have the paperwork processed, apply for a passport for their child, then return to their country of residence. My understanding of the above is that this process would now only establish the child as a Lawful Permanent Resident rather than a citizen if the parents reside outside of the US. The child would only become eligible for citizenship after returning to the US to live with their parents in an established residency unlike natural born children who would be eligible through birth.

If this is correct, military families would have to file for citizenship for their adopted children once they return to live in the United States and this would have to happen before the child turns 18. This will probably be more of a problem for the children of diplomats who are more likely to reside outside of the US on a more long term basis than military families. The family at the “Diplofam blog” has adopted three children from China but because they are career diplomats they did not have a permanent residence in the United States during any of that time. (I do know this family but am not publishing their name for security purposes.) The USCIS official who responded to press inquiries stressed that these changes would effect “very few families a year” but this will still be a very serious issue for those in that situation.

Please leave a comment if you think I am interpreting this wrongly. I will update the blog post if more information becomes available.

 

China renews orphan hosting programs

In July 2017, the CCCWA ended their orphan hosting programs at the same time they announced that partnership programs would be dissolved. Now, two years later, the CCCWA is bringing back orphan hosting programs. Currently there are several different agencies known to be participating.

Cradle of Hope is one of the earliest to have full details available. They are bringing children to the DC area for hosting. My understanding is that the children in their program are considered the most adoptable from a particular orphanage, not children who might need more advocacy. The youngest child available for hosting is 4. Gladney’s US based hosting program involves a camp like setting with structured activities. CCAI also has information available on their US based hosting program. They list 5 as the youngest age of child available for hosting.

Many families are enthusiastic about orphan hosting programs because they can be very effective at placing children. However, there are some serious drawbacks as well. For younger children or those with cognitive disabilities, traveling can be traumatic because they do not have sufficient understanding about what is happening. Children are often told by orphanage employees that they need to be on their best behavior so they can get a family. This places a huge burden on the kids who will feel that they are to blame if they do not find a family after being hosted. For a longer discussion of the pros and cons of orphan hosting programs, see this post I wrote previously.

Previously, the files of children who were participating in hosting programs were held by the agency hosting them. It is not yet known whether that will be the case for those in the current program. If a family who is not involved in hosting is interested in adopting a specific child chosen to participate, will the family be able to submit LOI? Will the child be removed from the hosting program? If the agencies will hold the files, how long will they have the files? There is a lot of information we do not yet have about how all of this will work.

A few agencies are having volunteers or parents from the US travel to China. This aspect has generated a lot of discussion because it seems as if a parents who are matched with a child can use the trip as an opportunity to meet the child. Here is some initial information from CHI:

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Gladney’s information page, which I linked to above, has the following:

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In many ways, this is similar to other country programs where international adoptions involve two trips so that the parents and child can get to know each other. This can certainly be beneficial to both of them in many ways. For those concerned about reducing adoption disruption, having parents be able to meet the child can help them to have a realistic understanding of their child’s special need and development.

However, this could bring some major downsides. How will the parents be presented to the child? If the parents decide not to proceed with the adoption after meeting the child, will the child know that they have been rejected? The information from some agencies has been open ended enough that this could turn into a program where you get to “child shop” by meeting lots of children in the orphanage and choosing the one you like best to adopt. In all of these cases families still have the danger of not understanding that it can take a long time to truly get to know a child’s personality and abilities, whether you host them in their home or meet them in their orphanage. If a child seems unresponsive because they are shy around strangers, there is the danger than not only could the prospective family decide not to adopt the child, but that future families would be scared off because this initial wrong first impression.

For either hosting program, it’s important to ask yourself if it is truly beneficial to the child. Hosting programs, including this opportunity to travel to meet a prospective child you will adopt, are most likely to benefit older children who have moderate or greater needs. But previous experience has shown that they will mostly involve younger children with moderate or less involved needs. My opinion is that you should tread carefully, ask a lot of questions before committing to a program, and don’t immediately assume that hosting programs are always beneficial to the children involved.