When people hear that we are adopting a boy from China, usually the first thing they say is “How did you get a boy?” This page is to explain how everything you thought you knew about China adoption is probably a bit outdated.
Maybe you remember seeing China’s Lost Girls when it aired in 2004. Most people know that because of the One Child Policy, China has thousands of healthy infant girls who are abandoned. That was true from about 1994-2004, but then things began to change. For one thing, domestic adoption is on the rise in China and Chinese couples prefer to adopt healthy infant girls the same as American couples. China has changed their one child law over time so that there are many exceptions now. Ethnic minorities are exempt, people in rural areas can have a second child after a certain number of years if their first was a girl, and if two only children marry then they may have two children. Since I originally wrote this post, there has been a further change that now a married couple may have two children. The two guides that we had in China both said that they would be allowed to have two children, even before this change was announced.
There were always some boys abandoned. There are many circumstances where a woman might successfully hide a pregnancy, but be unable to keep the child and choose to abandon the baby in secret. Parents may already have had a son, so their birth was illegal. There is a stigma against single mothers, so young women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, especially in college, face pressure to make the pregnancy disappear so they can continue their education and not bring shame to their family.
Because of China’s industrial growth paired with a lack of environmental regulation, it is the most polluted country in the world which has lead to an increase in birth defects and also infertility rate. China’s domestic adoption rate is on the rise, and most couples want to adopt the same young healthy girls that foreign couples desire. Birth defects do not discriminate by gender and so most of the children adopted from China now are from the special needs program, boys and girls. When you adopt from China today you can request either a boy or a girl, but as I wrote in another blog post, the majority of adoptive parents will only adopt a girl. My agency says that it will take about three times as long for a boy to find a home than a girl of a similar age or with a similar special need.
Does this mean that Chinese parents are casually tossing aside the children with birth defects because they aren’t perfect? Not necessarily. China does not have the social services that we have here in America. Imagine if your baby were born needing surgery immediately or he or she would die. Now imagine the hospital demanded you pay for up front in cash. What would you do? Many of the parents have made the incredibly brave decision to abandon their child so that they can receive the medical care that they need. Often the babies are left with notes begging for the child to receive care as soon as possible. Just look at the photos on this story about the baby hatch in Guangzhou and see how devastated the parents are who are abandoning their children. It can also be the case that a child born with something like Albinism or Down Syndrome is abandoned because of superstition or prejudice, but this makes them no less enlightened than Americans who abort 50% of pregnancies with major birth defects and 90% of pregnancies with Down Syndrome.
People will also say “But everyone knows they hate girls and want boys in China.” People in China love their daughters as much as we do. But the restrictive birth policies in China paired with other laws cause parents to desire their one child be a boy. In many areas in China you are required to retire at a certain age, but you will only receive a pension if you have a son because it will be taken out of his paycheck. Or perhaps you are a farmer who will lose your land if you have no son. The situation in China is much more complex than “hate girls, love boys.” You can read a more detailed account of the changes in Chinese cultural and economic factors and how they have affected the China foreign adoption program in my book, Mine In China. You can read the entire chapter using the “Look Inside” feature at Amazon.
Love Without Boundaries has a great blog series explaining how adoption from China has changed, including an account of why orphanages sit full of boys that I highly recommend reading.