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.


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