Houston Chinese Consulate Update

The United States has ordered China to close their consulate in Houston by Friday July 24th. This consulate was not currently processing any adoption related paperwork so the closure will not have any immediate effect for families in process. However, there is some discussion that China will force a US consulate in China to close in retaliation. The closure of the US consulate in Guangzhou would presumably halt adoption paperwork, at least until those services are moved to a different consulate in China.

Updates: Chine has ordered the US consulate in Chengdu be closed.

Those who were in the jurisdiction of the Chinese consulate in Houston will now be served by the Embassy in DC. This means you will now need the additional step of having documents authenticated by the US Dept of State before submitting them to the Chinese Embassy.

Kelly Rumbaugh, who operates the Ladybugs ‘n Love courier service, posted the following message on the China Adoption Questions Facebook group. I am reposting with permission.

My advice to every waiting parent that is processing dossier documents or POA is to call your caseworker for their opinion on this process. The information below is up to date and you can tell them the data if they don’t know.

Current Embassy requirements:
· Documents must be less than 6 months old
· Documents must have the extra Federal State Department seal
· Notary expiration must have at least 6 months left on their commission
Current processing timelines:
· Mail-in is open for the Department of State for the federal seal that is required by the DC Embassy. This is taking approximately 7-8 weeks
· The China Embassy will accept documents close to the 6-month age mark for appointment only. These documents are considered urgent to them. Their turnaround time is about a week.

As for the 5 Consulates that also process documents:
1. Chicago is by appointment only for urgent cases (close to 6 months old like Embassy)
2. New York is closed
3. San Francisco is closed
4. Los Angeles is closed
5. Houston is closed
(This is the data I have that is current as of today July 22, 2020)
Since families must have a home study done first, it is imperative to watch your dates on your documents and most likely send in a batch of documents to be authenticated before your immigration approval comes.

The gap in time causes medicals and police clearances to reach 6 months old before the immigration approval is finished. The authentication process can be done as documents are ready. You can submit two batches or more if necessary, to stay on top of the documents aging out. Once authenticated the documents are good for at least a year.

As an adoptive momma who has processed hundreds of dossiers this is a hard time and I believe wholeheartedly that the CCCWA will move forward with your adoptions as soon as possible. We cannot dictate to China or CCCWA what to do any more than we can dictate to our State Department. We must be patient and follow all the guidelines we are given by the agencies. They know the climate the best and can guide you to be as expedient as possible in your process.

Please know that we do have HOPE that the children will come home. I’m praying for all of you as you wait and will try to keep you abreast of any changes in this group! Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

 

 

 

Shared List June 2020

Here is data on the shared list from June 4, 2020

Total shared list files: 3261

Girls: 914 (28%)

Boys: 2346 (72%)

Here is the breakdown by age:

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LID Files

If you remember, the CCCWA introduced a new way of matching LID files in December 2019. The general assumption was that there would be a monthly LID list like there is typically a monthly release date when new files are uploaded to the shared list. However, this was disrupted by the COVID19 pandemic.

There have only been two LID lists in 2020:

  • February’s LID list had 18 files.
  • May’s LID list had 10 files.

 

The files released in 2020 were all created before the pandemic began. COVID19 restrictions in China have prevented orphanages from being able to create new files. Even when pandemic restrictions are lifted, there will not immediately be a large amount of new files available. It can take 6 months to a year for a new file to be created. Those in process or considering adopting from China should expect the amount of new files to continue to decrease while matching times increase.

Updates and news June 2020

The US Department of State has released their annual report on intercountry adoption for FY2019. There were only 819 adoptions from China to the US, a significant decrease. Note that FY2019 ended on October 1, 2019 so this cannot be attributed to pandemic closures. The report notes:

“In FY 2019, consular officers issued 2,971
immigrant visas to children adopted abroad, or to be adopted in the United States by U.S. citizens. While the overall number of intercountry adoptions to the United States declined from the previous year, 75% of that decline can be attributed to the decrease of intercountry adoption from two countries, China (a decrease of 656) and Ethiopia (a decrease of 166).”

Adoptions from Ukraine, Liberia, Hungary, and Colombia have increased as people look for program alternatives to China. This increase is still relatively minor, as the overall number of intercountry adoptions was below 3,000. Ten years ago there were more than 3,000 adoptions from China alone.

 

On Friday, May 29th, CCAI broke the news that the as of January 1, 2021 children in state care in China will not “age out” of adoption eligibility until their 18th birthday.

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All processing required for dossiers remains either slow or unavailable.

On June 1, it was announced that USCIS would furlough 11,000 employees starting July 20th.

USCIS has announced a furlough starting 20 July pending funding. Expect longer delays, reduced hours and less responsive customer service.
“With a loss of nearly 11,000 employees, work and visitor visa petitions, asylum and citizenship/naturalization applications, green cards and refugee applications will not be processed.” -Everett Kelley, AFGE national president.

 

Although select USCIS services resumed June 4th, application support centers which take fingerprinting for adoption applications remain closed.

According to Ladybugs N Love Adoption services, the Chicago Chinese consulate is still closed for document processing. The DC Embassy is open about 4 hours a week by appointment only for emergency services. Documents submitted to the Chinese Embassy must be sent to the US Dept of State first, and their mail in service is taking about 7 weeks currently.

In one lone bright spot, the CCCWA has begun to issue LIDs and LOAs. Travel remains unavailable for the foreseeable future.

 

The Stauffer family adoption dissolution has been national and international news over the past week. Normally when there is a big adoption related event which people are discussing I will make a blog post on the subject. However, I know the Stauffer family personally. I met them in person during the adoption process and after their son came home. I have been in contact with Myka during their struggle with the adoption over the past two years. Because I’m not a viewer of their YouTube channel, I don’t know what is information they have made public versus what was told to me personally. For this reason, I will not be posting about the situation. Here are two posts I have written previously on the topic:

In addition, I would like to share two posts written by adult adoptees because the adoption community needs to amplify adult adoptee voices more. One was written specifically about the situation and the other is generally applicable.

 

COVID19 Adoption Update

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As the COVID19 pandemic continues to disrupt life worldwide, I’ve seen people questioning how it is effecting adoption and whether this is a good time to begin an international adoption. Certainly, being stuck at home for weeks on end sounds like a great time to embark on an epic paperwork journey. Let’s look at the different parts of an adoption from China and how they are being effected.

Home study– A home study involves gathering paperwork to meet your state’s requirements, a physical from your physician, fingerprinting, background checks, and your social worker must visit your home at least one time.

  • Some home study agencies are completely closed to new clients at the moment but others are trying to do everything but the home visit remotely. The home visit will have to be completed once restrictions are lifted.
  • Many doctor’s offices are only taking urgent appointments or tele-visits. Check with your physician to see if a physical is possible at the moment.
  • Many fingerprinting services such as FastFingerprints are temporarily closed.

Dossier-

  • Dossier- USCIS is still processing I800a and I800s, however their processing times are very slow.
  • Getting your documents authenticated at the state Secretary of State office may be difficult at the moment. In my state, they are only authenticating documents which are mailed in and documents may be held for later processing.
  • Chinese consulates are closed right now so you will not be able to get your documents authenticated.

Taking these factors into consideration, my advice to someone considering starting the process right now would be to continue to read and educate yourself about adoption but to wait on starting the actual process. Remember that Chinese consulates will not accept documents more than 6 months old, so you don’t want to have your home study process drag out so long that you need to start redoing paperwork. Figuring out which placing agency you would use and contacting your local home study agency to see what your process will look like are other good ways to spend this time.

CCCWA-

  • Dossiers are still being sent to the CCCWA and log in dates are being issued.
  • Only a handful of LOAs have been received.
  • TAs are only being issued for aging out kids. Remember that TAs are only valid for 90 days. It doesn’t make sense for China to issue them if people are unable to travel.

Matching-

  • There was one shared list release in early January, before things got really crazy in China.
  • There was also one non-special focus list released in early February.
  • Other than that, there have basically been no new files made available. Presumably the pandemic closures in China will have an impact on the creation of new files for several months.

Travel-

  • For families who were close to travel when things shut down in China, there is no end in sight for the completion of their adoptions.
  • Intercountry adoption depends on families being able to enter China as well as return to the United States. Your child must be able to obtain a visa while you are in China to be able to travel home with you.
  • Earlier this week, President Trump said that he was placing a 60 day suspension of immigration to the United States. An exception is included in Section 2 for minors immigrating through adoption. So, if anyone were to be able to travel within the next two months, this would not cause a problem for your child.  Screen Shot 2020-04-24 at 3.10.32 PM

What to expect in the future? That is anyone’s guess. I think that there will be very few international adoptions in 2020. Even when businesses and agencies begin to open, they may not be working at typical speed and there will be a backlog. It is uncertain how many new files will become available in China over the next few months. Finally, as my last post discussed how financially precarious most adoption agencies are, I think we can only expect more agencies to close. Most of these agencies have zero resources available to weather a year with very few adoptions. If you do decide to begin an adoption at this time, choose your placing agency carefully. Having your placing agency close in the middle of an adoption is both expensive and disruptive to your process.

Agency IRS 990 data

Disclaimer: I do not work for an agency. I do not have an Amazon affiliate account. Only WordPress gets money from ads you might see on my blog. I do get a few bucks if you buy my book, so that is the best way to show your appreciation if you find this blog helpful.

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With the recent round of mergers and accreditation relinquishments it has become harder to make agency recommendations. If a family is in process with an agency and that agency suddenly does not facilitate adoptions the family will lose time, money, and sometimes not have a choice about which agency they will complete the adoption through. While I do always recommend families look at the IRS 990 data for agencies that they are considering, I doubt if few do so. For this reason I took the time to compile the numbers for the thirty most frequently used agencies using ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer.

Remember that this is only one consideration when choosing an agency. I am not recommending that you go with the agency which looks like it is doing the best financially. You should still try to find the agency which will be the best fit for your family. Checking the substantiated claims list to see if the agency has been found to have done something unethical or illegal is also extremely important.

Finally, a few comments about this information. I included some of the agencies which have merged or relinquished their accreditation so that you can see what their finances looked like preceding that decision. They are marked with an asterisk. You can see that some of them like Bethany made the decision while still financially secure while others like WACAP were in the red for several years in a row. The information for Wide Horizons for Children is somewhat misleading. They were hundreds of thousands in the red for several years. While they did reduce operating expenses, ultimately they sold assets worth around 1.5 million in 2015 in a bid to stay solvent. You can see that it helped, but seemingly only temporarily.

CCAI’s loss in 2018 is another outlier which you have to look more deeply at the IRS 990 to see the full picture. CCAI lost 1 million in investment revenue but their program revenue from 2017 to 2018 is almost identical: 4.35 million versus 4.18 million. So 2018 is all the big investment income loss, not any change in number of clients. Their investment revenue had been steady at around $150,000 through 2014. Here is their investment revenue:
2018: -1 million
2017: +2.8 mil
2016: +1.3 mil
2015: -300,000
2014: +150,000

Some of these agencies had a significant amount of investment or real estate income each year, often making the difference in keeping them in the black. I marked those in the final column. You can see that between the rising costs of accreditation and the decline in families adopting internationally, very few are consistently generating the kind of revenue they need to stay operational.

These numbers are what the IRS 990 indicated was their bottom line figure (income minus expenditures) for the year. Black means they made a profit and red indicates a deficit. The full IRS 990 includes donations, fundraising, investments and more under income. It also lists executive salary among other expenditures. Looking over the actual form will give you a fuller picture of an agency’s finances. I only pulled out one data point for this chart.

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*Agency has merged, relinquished their accreditation, or announced they will not be renewing their accreditation once it expires.

Shared List January 2020

The Red Thread Advocates blog used to do periodic postings of shared list data. As they are affiliated with WACAP, the blog has been a bit in flux after WACAP merged with Holt. I am going to try to share shared list updates on a regular basis because I found those posts helpful. Although it’s February, this data is from January 2020. There were no LID files on the shared list at this time.

Total Shared list files: 3223

Girls: 919 (28.51%)

Boys: 2303 (74.46%)

There are always more older children on the list than younger children. Almost half of all the files on the shared list are for children over the age of 10. More than a third of all the files on the shared list are boys over the age of 10.

Total children on the shared list over the age of 10: 1558

Number of girls over 10: 455 (14.12% of the total shared list)

Number of boys over 10: 1103 (34.22% of the total shared list)

 

Red Thread Advocates did posts with shared list data for both January 2018 and January 2019, so I thought it would be interesting to have three years in a row of the same month. The numbers are pretty consistent because the biggest jump in shared list files came mid-July 2017 when the partnership program was dissolved, though files added to the shared list did continue to increase through 2018. You can see the monthly shared list numbers from Feb 2017 to Feb 2018 in this Red Thread Advocates post.

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Here is the information charted a different way:

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The future of LID matching

 

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Is the China program a good option if I want to adopt a young girl with minor needs?

That is the question continually being asked both by those seeking to adopt for the first time and those who adopted previously from China. Unfortunately, there is no easy yes or no answer. Since we do have shared list data from the past three years, there is some information to help with that decision. But please keep in mind that this is only my opinion and speculation.

Starting in December 2019, the CCCWA has done a trial method of matching LID files. Each agency can put forward one family per LID file. Out of those families, the one with the earlier LID date will receive the file. My understanding is that in both December and January all of the files were matched with European families. Because European countries have more restrictive laws governing international adoption, European families were at a disadvantage at being matched with LID files from the shared list. There are European families who have been waiting five years or longer. In comparison, few American families have waited longer than 2 years from dossier log in to be matched. So until the European back log gets cleared out they will presumably continue to be matched with new LID files until they get caught up to dossier dates that are shared with American families.

Previously, if you were starting the process looking at the number of waiting families would be important because the fewer families an agency has ahead of you the sooner it will be your turn. However, assuming LID files continue to be matched by dossier date, this puts you into the greater pool of families with dossiers logged in at the CCCWA, not just the pool of families at your agency. I don’t know how many dossiers there are for the special needs program at the CCCWA. There are 70+ agencies with a China program worldwide. The largest American agency has at least 100, if not 200, LID families. We could put the next few most popular agencies at say, 30 dossiers each, and all the other agencies at a dozen or less. I’m going to use 1000 dossiers as a very general number to work with because it’s nice and round.

So, if you are dossier #1001 when would you be matched with that young girl with minor needs? The number of girl LID files increased from 2018 to 2019, but I don’t want to assume that will keep up. I think we should use 100 girl LID files per year as our number there. That means it could be ten years before you are matched. If you think that is crazy talk, remember that families which sent a dossier through the standard (non-special needs) program in early February 2007 waited eleven years to be matched. And a lot of February 2007 is still waiting.

However, not all 1000 of those families ahead of you are waiting for young girls with minor needs. It’s important to remember that LID versus special focus is a rather arbitrary designation that reflects the most popular needs. A lot of families talk about “going the LID route” but this isn’t a system where you have to pick an option. Many families will be matched with special focus files either before or after their dossier is logged in at the CCCWA because their agency found a special focus file which was a good fit for the family. For this reason, I think it is still a good idea to ask about the number of waiting families at an agency before making your agency decision. Don’t assume you will only be looking at LID files. In an agency with fewer waiting families, you very well might be matched much sooner with a special focus child which is perfect for your family.

Let’s say that 500 of the dossiers ahead of you are matched with special focus children. That brings your potential wait down to five years. If half of the remaining 500 dossiers are open to boys, your wait might be as little as three years. I believe several agencies are now quoting three years as the estimated wait time for a young girl with minor needs. I think 3-5 years is probably more accurate since I wouldn’t assume the number of LID files will keep increasing.

It is accurate to say that the China program is transitioning from young children with minor needs to older children with moderate or greater needs. There are still young children and children with minor needs available but the more flexible you are on your child criteria the faster you will be matched. Because of the increasing matching times for those young children with minor needs, families are beginning to choose other programs. In 2018, there were increases in adoptions from India and Colombia. I think the number of families adopting from China will continue to decrease. When the US Department of State releases the 2019 numbers, I think it’s very possible there will have been under 1000 adoptions from China.

So, should you adopt from China if you will only accept a young girl with minor needs? I can’t say what the future holds and I certainly don’t know what is best for your family. If you are absolutely set on a young girl and only open to a few needs, I think I would look at other adoption options. I can’t stress enough that most months there are 10 or fewer LID girl files, some of which are older girls, but 70+ agencies with hundreds of waiting families. People always want to know why it takes so long. That’s why–supply and demand. There are far more families who want to adopt young girls with minor needs than there are actual girls who need families.

However, for those who are more flexible on age/gender/medical need I think the China program is still a good option. There are more than 3000 children waiting on the shared list who DO need families with no wait necessary. Each of those children deserve a loving family just as much. Maybe one is the child you’ve been waiting for.

Shared list data 2019

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I am happy to be able to again share data from files released to the shared list over the past year. Here is a link to last year’s post, but I will put the charts with 2018 and 2018 data below 2019 to make it easier to compare. A reminder that the elimination of the partnership program was announced in 2017. Partnership files continued to trickle in over 2018 but the overall number of files released to the shared list in 2018 was double that of 2017. There was another increase this year, but not to the same degree as last year.

  • Special focus boys was +99
  • LID boys was +9
  • Special focus girls was +59
  • LID girls was +35
  • Overall there were 202 more shared list files this year; 158 special focus and 44 LID
  • My thoughts on what this means for the future of LID files are in this companion post.

 

Here is the 2019 chart

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The 2018 chart

 

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The 2017 chart

 

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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.