Monthly Archives: March 2017

Understanding Waivers in the China Program

As I wrote in A new year . . . a new China program? there were several changes in December 2016–some official and others unofficial. Although these changes have been in place for a couple of months now, people still find them confusing. Waivers seem to be the aspect that people have the most questions about.

A waiver is when a family or person who does not meet all of China’s criteria is granted permission to adopt. For example, China used to say that anyone on medication for depression or anxiety was not eligible to adopt. However, many people in that situation adopted through the China program anyway because China granted them a waiver. It sometimes came with stipulations, such as adopting a special focus child rather than a LID designated child, or that the person have a psychological exam to make sure their mental health was sufficient to parent.

According to my understanding, a waiver is not a formal part of the adoption process. You do not draft a letter, sign and notarize it, and send it to China. Rather, agency personnel will inquire at the CCCWA about individual cases to see if it is likely they would be granted permission to adopt. For this reason, some people are interested in adopting again, but they don’t really know if they had a waiver the first time they adopted.

In December 2014, China changed their requirements to make official many of the situations where waivers were commonly granted. Among these new guidelines changes included:

  • Instead of setting an upper age limit of 50, the requirement is now that there should not be more than 50 years difference between the younger spouse and the child. For single parents, the age difference is capped at 45 years.
  • Instead of limiting the family size to 5 children under age 18 in the home, the number of children cap was eliminated entirely. However, as of December 2016 no families with more than 10 children under 18 in the home have been approved.
  • While the guidelines still state that adoptive parents should not have “mental disorder,” the following statement was added: “In the adoption by a couple, if they have such illness with minor symptom (sic) and are under good control by taking a small dose of medicine, they will be exempt from this limitation.”
  • Similarly, serious health conditions which affect one spouse now have the caveat: “In the adoption by a couple, if one party is completely healthy and the other suffers any of such diseases but is under good control after treatment, they will be exempt from this limitation.”
  • Finally, regarding the income and new worth requirements, China stated that “For PAPs whose family per capita annual income and family net worth does not meet the requirements . . . but is above the local average living standards, the limitation can be relaxed accordingly if they can provide valid certification.

What this means is that if you take a low does of medication for anxiety or depression, you do not need a waiver and are eligible to adopt from China. If a married couple is 62 and 60 years of age, they do not need a waiver as long as they are adopting a child between 10-13 years of age. If one spouse has a condition such as epilepsy or has cancer in their medical history, you do not need a waiver if your spouse is in good health and you are therefore eligible to adopt from China. Unfortunately, a BMI of over 40 does not fall under this “healthy spouse” category, even if the other spouse has a BMI under 40. At this time, both the marriage length and BMI requirements remain unchanged. If you do not meet these requirements, there is really nothing to do but wait to see if waivers begin to be granted again in a few months.

Red Thread Advocates, in conjunction with WACAP, has compiled this information in a great chart. You can see what the guideline is, whether a waiver is necessary, and in come cases whether waivers were likely or unlikely to be granted in the past. I have been given permission to post the charts below.


What I’m Reading #15

Allison, who wrote a guest post for me on adopting an older child, has posted a 4 month update on her blog.

The adoption agency EAC has shut down after being debarred from adoptions for the next 3 years because of ethical violations.

What’s the Big Deal About Birth Order? on MLJ Adoptions is a great read for those considering adopting out of birth order.

At The Chronicle of Social Change, a discussion of how more adoptive parents are becoming aware of the need to secure documentation for their internationally adopted child in light of the new immigration policies.

Because the US State Department has received such a high volume of inquiries from adoptive parents, they have issued a notice with information clarifying a number of adoptive immigrant citizenship issues.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, a series of hand colored photographs from 1870’s Shanghai.

All Things Considered looks at how scientific research has revealed that institutionalization causes changes to the brain. It primarily focuses on Romanian orphanages, but the information will be relevant for those from China as well.

In Foreign Policy magazine, a young woman compares her life after being adopted by an American family with that of her orphanage friend who was not. You can read a similar article about the same young women at Sixth Tone with many more additional pictures.

MLJ Adoptions has a great post explaining what post placement reports are and why you should complete them.

WACAP’s blog has a post from an adoptee writing about how her feelings about “Gotcha Day” have changed over the years.


Planning surgery for your newly adopted child

Many parents who bring home children needing non-urgent surgery struggle with knowing the best timing for surgery. Should they do it as soon as possible to promote bonding or will it hurt bonding? Maybe waiting until the child is settled in and have a better understanding of what will be happening is better. Making the right decision will depend on a lot of variables–the age of your child, their language acquisition, how big of a surgery it will be, and if the surgery will involve traveling out of state, that adds yet another consideration.

Both of our sons needed a surgery related to their special need, but neither was needed immediately. Our experiences were very different, so I thought I would share them so you can see how the optimal timing isn’t set in stone.

We brought our son Leo home right before his second birthday. (Oh my goodness, he is so tiny and chubby in the picture I dug up!) He had an unrepaired cleft palate. We visited a craniofacial specialist soon after returning home. The doctor was happy to leave the timing of surgery in our hands. We decided that as soon as possible would be best. Our first consideration was to promote his speech development. Leo had come to us almost nonverbal. He could only make about four sounds. While he could eat okay, the open palate does cause meals to be messy. Leo was from an area that spoke a dialect rather than Mandarin, so translation services wouldn’t be a help to us, however we felt that a two year old wouldn’t really be able to understand what was happening even if we could communicate it to him. We hoped that the surgery would promote bonding.

Leo was scared but he was very comforted by us. He knew that we would not leave him. While speech continues to be a struggle three and a half years later, we were able to start speech therapy with him almost immediately. We felt we had made the right decision.

When we brought August home, we fully intended to repeat the experience. August turned three while we were in China. He was very verbal. Although we only know a handful of Chinese words or phrases, we could pick up some of what he was saying in China. August’s first orthopedics appointment was within two weeks of arriving home. However, we did not move towards surgery as quickly as we thought we would. We eventually discovered that our local hospital was trying to fill a vacancy. They were stalling us until the new doctor arrived. We sought out other opinions while we were waiting for him to arrive. One doctor informed me that he required children be home for a full year before surgery because he felt it was detrimental.

In the end, August was home for nine months before he had his surgery. Almost four is much older than barely two in developmental terms. I explained to August that we would be going to the hospital to have surgery on his leg to prepare him. August had several surgeries in China, so he has a lot of medical trauma. We were able to be with him in recovery almost immediately. August wanted me to hold him in bed, so I climbed in and stayed there for almost all of the next 24 hours.

Having August be so verbal was an enormous help. When he started crying, he could tell us “Leg hurt real bad.” When we checked to see how he was feeling after the pain medicine had enough time to take effect he replied “Feel better now.” He had some control over his environment by being able to tell us exactly what food he would like to eat and what movie he wanted to watch. When the Child Life specialist asked him if he wanted to go play with some cars in the playroom, he gave an enthusiastic yes.

Because August had been with us for so long, I can’t say that we saw a different in bonding per se. However, seeing that we were with him in the hospital every minute was a very healing experience for his medical anxiety. Many of his anxious behaviors were greatly reduced. He had been a confirmed thumb sucker since we got him, but within a few days of surgery he was down to only sucking his thumb while sleeping. I’m very glad now that we weren’t able to do the surgery immediately. While one surgery was soon and the other after a long acclimation period, they were both perfect timing. When you are making that decision for your own family, remember that there is not a perfect time for surgery that is universal. Make the decision that is best for your individual child.