Almost all of my posts from the past few months have been about the many program changes of the last year. I don’t really have enough to post an update on a specific topic, but I wanted to share a few pieces of information about how the changes are playing out as they have been in place for a longer time period.
Child Updates – Now that the CCCWA is requiring all updates to go through them, the wait time to receive an update has increased significantly. I am hearing that two months is the average amount of time it takes to receive a child update. If you are requesting information on a child you are considering adopting, you should expect to make a decision about whether or not to move forward with only the information in the file.
Some agencies are charging for updates. I was told by my agency contacts that when the CCCWA started requiring all updates come through them, they stopped charging an update fee. Updates are now free for your agency. If your agency is requiring you to pay you are at their mercy if you want the update.
Third party update services like Ladybugs ‘n Love or Ann at Red Thread are still able to get updates from some orphanages, but many orphanages no longer work with them because of the new guideline.
Transferring files– There are still many families who are finding children on photo listings which they would like to adopt. The new US Department of State guidelines require agencies to transfer files if they do not have any interested families. The implementation of this policy has been mixed. Some agencies are transferring files as required while others are reportedly having an interested family magically appear at their agency just in time to prevent them from having to transfer the file. You can report agencies which you feel are not complying to IAAME, but it is unlikely that anything will be done in time for you to receive the file you think they are hoarding.
Submitting LOI– I have heard accounts that some agencies are allowing families to submit LOI without an approved home study. They will keep the child on their agency photo listing until the home study is complete to meet the US State Dept requirement that the child not be locked to a family without a home study. In theory, if another family stepped forward with a complete home study, the first family would have to rescind their LOI so that the second family could submit LOI. Time will tell whether this practice will be accepted by the DoS and IAAME.
Orphanage donation– Payment of the now optional orphanage donation continues to be a hot topic among families in the China program. Some orphanages have stated that they will not be continuing to prepare files because donations have fallen off so much that it’s simply not worth their while to do so.
A few orphanages have decided to “encourage” people to donate the full amount by offering different passport processing times for those who donate the full amount. If you make the full donation, you will spend the normal 5 days in province. If you do not donate the full amount, you will spend 2 weeks in province waiting for your child’s passport to be processed. I have to admire the creativity of this approach. Families tend to not spare money on expenses which make travel more comfortable for themselves such as economy plus airfare or executive benefits at the hotel. If you now have to pay for an extra week of hotel and guide service, you might as well put that amount of money as the orphanage donation and shave a week off your travel time, right? If orphanages are having to reduce staffing because of the decrease in donations, I’m sure they feel expending precious employee time preparing paperwork for families that don’t donate is a low priority.
Parents who are effected by this are angrily making claiming this constitutes bribery, which is a fair accusation. Even for those in other areas, people want to know what sort of reaction they should expect from officials in their area if they do not donate the full amount. I would like to remind people that the CCCWA implemented this policy without consulting the orphanages involved, or even giving them advance warning in order to try to cope with a steep decline in their operating budget. I think it’s asking a bit much to expect orphanage officials to smile and be happy as you offer them an insultingly low amount, a box of used clothing, or nothing at all. Many people have the view that they are doing the orphanage a favor by “taking these kids off their hands.” Please keep in mind that adopting these children in a privilege that China allows us. They can stop international adoption at any time. Orphanages ARE deciding that they will not do us the favor of preparing files. How much to donate is a very personal decision, but I encourage everyone to donate the full customary amount if at all possible. I address many of the concerns people have about the donation in this post.
Agency involvement in the donation– The CCCWA has made it clear that they do not want agencies involved in the orphanage donation in any way at avoid influencing the amount that families donate. Some agencies are distributing a kind of FAQ about the donation to families similar to my blog post to help clear up misconceptions that families might have about the donation. This is presumably to encourage them to donate but is merely giving information to help them decide how much to donate.
A few agencies are requiring that the families pay the full donation amount to the agency before travel. Families are free to choose the donation amount and what is not donated will be refunded once the family returns from China. This is kind of skirting the line of inducing families to donate. However, these agencies are refusing to release the Travel Authorization for families that do not hand over the full amount to the agency. As much as I encourage people to donate the full amount, this is unethical. As far as I am aware, the contract you sign with an agency notifies you that they will halt your adoption if your fees are not paid at the time of travel. These agencies are ones which have included the orphanage donation with their China program fees, so you may not have any legal recourse. However, I suggest that you report the agency to USCIS, IAAME, the CCCWA, and mention it to the US consulate in Guangzhou because these agencies will have to change this practice if they are told they have to by government entities.
Matching times– We are now at the point where there should be very few partnership designated files remaining. Most newly prepared files should be released directly to the shared list. Here is the breakdown of recent file releases:
August- 66 files: 52 special focus, 14 LID (7 LID girls)
July- 46 files: 36 special focus, 10 LID (3 LID girls)
June- 61 files (two release dates): 55 special focus, 6 LID (2 LID girls)
May- 74 files: 62 special focus, 12 LID (6 LID girls)
To date, there have been 388 files released to the shared list this year. In 2017, there were 314 total files released to the shared list. This shows that the amount of files released to the shared list has increased as the partnership system is being phased out. However, the amount of files released monthly is still less than one would expect if all the files received from partnerships were put directly on the shared list. There are a few theories people have for this:
- Orphanages typically prepare files in batches once or twice a year. If many orphanages pushed to prepare as many files as possible by the end of last year, they might only now be beginning to prepare another batch. If this is the case, the number of files should only increase through the next year.
- Fewer orphanages are preparing files or choosing to prepare fewer files because of the decrease in orphanage donations from parents.
- The CCCWA has made a conscious decision to significantly decrease the amount of young children with minor needs available for international adoption, much like the sudden decrease in files of healthy infants available which occurred in 2006.
Any or all of these might be a factor. As you can see, there were only 18 LID designated girl files in the past four months. Some of them were older girls, not toddlers but there were also special focus designated girl files that had needs which many people consider minor. Either way, there are not many files available of the most popular “minor needs girl under 2” profile. Given the number of waiting families with agencies around the world, you will need to be prepared for a significant wait time to match unless you are open to changing your child profile.