File distribution in the China program

People who are considering or starting out in the China program right now are beginning at a time when the program is in transition. At the beginning of 2017, China stopped granting waivers, which had allowed families who did not quite meet all of China’s criteria to adopt. China made changes to their parent eligibility guidelines over the summer, as well as announced that the partnership system would be ending as of January 1st, 2018. I hope this post will help to explain these changes to those who aren’t sure what they mean.

Does this mean the China program is ending?

No. China’s international adoption program has been active for over 20 years. During that time they have made changes in parent eligibility as well as how the files are designated and distributed. The partnership program was a relatively new innovation in China’s program. Families will still be able to adopt from China without the partnership program.

What was the partnership program and why would they end it?

The One-to-One program, more commonly known as “partnerships” involved adoption agencies signing a contract with a specific orphanage in China. In return for providing material, medical, and/or educational support for the orphanage, all files prepared by that orphanage would be designated to that agency first for a period of time. Larger agencies might have 15-20 partnerships while small agencies might only have one or two. China’s ending of the partnership program, is likely a side effect of the law governing Non- Governmental Agencies (NGO) which went into effect January 1, 2017. You can learn more about the NGO law in this post.

If there are no partnerships, how will agencies get files?

Prior to the partnership program, all new files were added to the shared list once a month. Agencies will continue to receive files from their active partnerships through the end of the year, but on January 1st, 2018 all newly created files will presumably be added to the shared list. Files which reach Civil Affairs by the last day of December will still be sent to partner agencies when they are finalized, so partnership files will continue to trickle in for the first few months of 2018.

I don’t want to wait a long time to be matched. How do I know which agency will be able to match me fastest after January?

That’s a question no one can answer. Agencies are still giving match time estimates, but we really don’t know how things are going to go. Some agencies are experienced at matching off of the shared list while others relied almost exclusively on their partnerships for matching. Theoretically an agency with a long list of waiting families with you at the bottom of the list would take longer to match you than an agency with few waiting families, but until we’ve been on the system long enough for agencies to know what their average number of matches per month are, we won’t know for certain.

Will files still be designated LID only or Special Focus?

I would assume that these designations will remain. Losing the LID designation would only slow down the process for young children with minor needs because they could be locked by families without a dossier in China. Similarly, the Special Focus designation allows a greater amount of potential families to commit to a child that might be more difficult to place. Being able to lock a file without a dossier in China is a relatively new option, and it is only done in America. However, some families respond much better to an actual child that they have seen in a photo so this is a very effective way to place children. Hopefully this aspect of the program will remain unchanged. If you don’t know what LID and Special Focus files are, read this post.

Does this mean there won’t be any more agency photolisting so I can find my child first?

Possibly, but I doubt it. China has always had the ability to designate files to a particular agency for a period of time. I think it is likely that children who have been unmatched on the shared list for a few weeks or months will be designated to a specific agency so that the agency can advocate for the child. The “former shared list” program shows that China understands this is an effective way of helping overlooked files to be seen.

Isn’t it a bad thing if partnerships end?

There were certainly positive aspects to the partnership program. Agencies were able to improve orphanage conditions by providing material aid and training to their partner orphanages. CCAI and Holt, as the two agencies with NGO recognition, might be uniquely placed to continue to provide aid to particular orphanages or meet children in the orphanages. Holt announced that they have received consultative status on the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. While CCAI does not have quite the same international presence for humanitarian aid, both agencies have a high reputation with the CCCWA and been involved in child welfare in China for a long time. We can hope that they continue their work in China alongside NGOs such as Love Without Boundaries or OneSky, in addition to the many China based organizations which exist.

A good aspect of the partnership program was that often agency personnel would advocate for files to be created for particular children they met, so children got the opportunity to be adopted who had been considered unadoptable by the orphanage director. Moving to the partnership ended the “feeding frenzy” for the most desired files because agencies knew that they would be receiving files from their partner orphanages to match. It’s possible that agencies might feel a certain amount of reluctance to invest advocacy resources into files which could disappear from the shared list at any moment. However, if designated file continue as I speculated above, that would help with this negative aspect.

The partnership system also gave families more time to have a file evaluated and come to a decision with less pressure. Shared list files can only be locked for 72 hours. It can be difficult to get a file review in that amount of time, particularly over weekends or holidays. Sending questions for a file update would presumably be out of the question.

Can you give me any good side to moving back to an all shared list system?

The partnership program was not without its downsides. Partnerships were an almost exclusively American phenomenon. Most other countries could not enter into a partnership contract because of their governing laws or interpretation of the Hague agreement. This made it very difficult for families in other countries to be matched with a child, particularly those in countries with restrictions on the age or special needs of the child to be adopted. The partnership system always carried the risk of encouraging corruption. Would orphanages feel pressure, implied or actual, to provide a certain amount of files for young children with minor needs to justify the agency’s “investment” at their orphanage. Moving back to an all shared list system will level the playing field in that case. Regardless of country or size of agency, all will have the same access to new files.

It will also make it easier for people who have identified a particular file to use their preferred agency to lock the file and complete the adoption. However, since people often identified files through the advocacy efforts of agencies who had the file designation, this might happen less often.

 

I know that any changes in the China program cause people to feel uneasy. We like consistency and predictability. Be assured that families were matched through the shared list for many years. People like myself continued to be matched from the shared list even when most agencies had partnerships. While there were many advantages from the partnership system for families, the China program will continue to be a wonderful program for families even without agency partnerships.

 

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Using the Guangzhou subway

These directions with photos were compiled by Amy, who was recently in Guangzhou. You can read more detailed directions (but without pictures) on how to take the subway from the China Hotel to Shamian Island in this post by Elizabeth at Ordinary Time. Yvette at Bringing Home Holland has a post on how to get to the Safari Park from the China Hotel which includes pictures, but is from 2011.

So from the Garden, you walk out the front door and to the right and will find a station almost directly in front of the hotel. Take the escalator down. The China Hotel also has a subway station adjacent, next to the 7-11.

Once you are in, you will come to a bank of ticket machines (look similar to an atm). There is a green button on the bottom right of the screen to change to English, if you wish.

 

You choose, from the bottom, the line you wish to get off at. Then you touch the station you wish to get off (ex. We got off on Beijing Lu to walk to the Pearl River cruise).

If you have more than one person in your party, then touch the number at the right to get tickets for all (if you have a really large group you may have to make multiple transactions).

Then simply deposit your money. It does not take 1 yuan bills, only 1 yuan coins and larger bills (think small bills). For us to go to the cruise was 3 yuan each, one way. Shamian island was 4 yuan each one way.

Once your money is deposited, green coins are dispensed (like a vending machine). Collect your coins and go to the set of “gates” You simply touch your coin to a little pad thing (watch the locals), the gate opens, and you walk through.

Follow the signs to your train. Once you’ve reached the train platform, look and see which one you need. There are large signs that list each stop along the route. Find the train going your direction and wait in line.

For most destinations, you will change trains. Simply follow the signs and choose the correct train once at the platform.

Once on the trains there is a map of stops, as well as, a flashing sign that lets you know the next stop of the train.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you reach your destination, follow the signs to exit. Just before you go through the “gates” again, look for the large sign to tell you whether you need exit a, b, c, etc.

When you exit, you will deposit your green coin and leave. When you start your journey back, you will do it all over again.

Google maps is your friend. It will show you the stop where you need to exit. Take a screen shot and you can always ask locals to help once you emerge from the subway. Ask at your hotel concierge desk for a subway map. You can also find a metro map online here, along with detailed information about the various lines. Have fun and enjoy.

Checking for substantiated claims of potential agencies

I spend a lot of time writing about choosing an agency on this blog. That’s because it’s one of the most important decisions you make during the process. You want to choose an agency that you are confident is ethical, knowledgeable about the process, and charges a reasonable amount of fees. I always suggest that people check the Council on Accreditation’s Substantiated Complaints and Adverse Actions list to see if there have been any issues with a potential agency. However, that file is a billion pages long, so I doubt many people actually do so. I decided to go through and list for you the agencies which have had substantiated claims. I can’t guarantee that I know every single agency with a China program, but I checked all that I was familiar with. Remember that an agency not being on this list doesn’t guarantee that they have no unethical practices. It’s simply one more tool you can use to evaluate your options.

If you see the name of your agency or one that you are considering, the COA reminds people that “It’s not uncommon for programs to have an occasional state licensing or Hague Accreditation/Approval regulatory violation. However, serious or regular on-going violations are reasons for concern.” You might still consider using an agency that is on this list. You can see that some complaints are more concerning than others. I also noted the year so you can see how long ago the claims were. This information is from the April 2017 file.

  1. ATWA– Agency failed to demonstrate that it was financially stable throughout fiscal year 2013 and completed voluntary corrective action.
  2. Adoption Associates (MI)- In 2010, the agency had multiple violations for charging additional fees and expenses beyond those disclosed in the contract.
  3. America World Adoptions– In 2012, the agency failed to report a complaint filed with licensing. In 2016, the agency did not provide sufficient individualized counseling and preparation for the adoptive family in light of the particular child’s special needs.
  4. Bay Area Adoption Services– In 2014, the agency did not follow state licensing and regulatory requirements regarding the finalization of an adoption.
  5. Bethany Christian Services– In 2010, the agency failed to include information about an additional adult household member in a home study and RFE response.
  6. European Adoption Consultants– In April 2016, the COA found a substantiated violation in requiring families take the foreign program fee in cash to China. In December 2016, this agency was disbarred for three years.
  7. Faith International Adoptions– In 2015, the agency was found to have failed to investigate serious allegations that their contact in India was fraudulently facilitating adoptions in their agency’s name. Faith then provided false and conflicting information to COA during the investigation. They also failed to inform COA that an individual in a senior management position had two felony convictions for acts involving financial irregularities. Faith’s COA accreditation was suspended for a time as a result.
  8. Great Wall– In 2012, Great Wall allowed someone to apply and pay fees to adopt from Rwanda despite adoptions from Rwanda being closed. There was also a memo which gave the appearance that Great Wall would buy their accreditation in Rwanda.
  9. Heartsent Adoptions– In 2010, The agency did not report safety concerns to the appropriate authorities in a timely manner.
  10. Lifeline– In 2014, the agency did not provide sufficient individualized counseling and preparation to meet the needs of prospective adoptive parents in light of the particular child’s special needs.
  11. Living Hope– In 2013, The agency’s orientation training did not comply with standards.
  12. WACAP– In 2011, The agency did not provide a copy of its complaint policies and procedures at the time the adoption services contract was signed.
  13. Wasatch International Adoptions– In 2012, The agency failed to properly oversee their contractor’s work. The CCCWA’s procedures were violated and the placing order of children was disrupted. They referred a special focus child to a family who did not complete a home study or dossier causing the child to have a prolonged time where the child was not available to be adopted. In a different complaint in 2012, Wasatch failed to follow-up on parents concerns about a child whose eligibility for international adoption was in question. In 2013, they failed to provide sufficient individualized counseling and preparation to meet the needs of prospective adoptive parents in light of the particular child’s special needs.
  14. Wide Horizons For Children– In 2012, the agency’s grievance procedures were misleading.

 

China Program Changes July 2017

The CCCWA released an announcement yesterday making official changes which have been expected for some time. The statement was posted on the SuperKids blog but it is short so I will reproduce it below.

Relevant government departments and adoption agencies in receiving countries,
Following the enactment of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-Governmental Organizations within the Territory of China (hereinafter referred to as Administration Law) since January 1, we would like to notify as follows on relevant issues about the programs carried out by adoption agencies such as the One-to-One Assistance Program, Journey of Hope Program, and Summer/Winter Hosting Program based on the regulations of the Administrative law and conclusions of competent authorities:

  • All activities concerning the One-to-One program, Journey of Hope Program, and Summer/Winter Hosting Program will be terminated. For children who have been assessed by adoption agencies through the One-to-One program before the enactment of the Administrative Law and whose reports have not been submitted to CCCWA, if their reports are submitted through the provincial department of civil affairs to CCCWA before December 31, 2017 (subjected to the approval date of the provincial department), CCCWA will post these files to the specific list of the original adoption agency. Agencies are requested to look for children within required deadline, otherwise the files will be withdrawn by CCCWA when the deadline is closing.
  • Foreign adoption agencies should abide by the business scope specified in the registration when working in China. No activities with inter-country adoption as the purpose are allowed when agencies work in welfare and charity related activities.
  • Adoption agencies should look for adoptive families according to the requirements outlines in the Review Points for Decision on the Eligibility of Foreigners Adopting from China and avoid hasty placements without discretion within the deadline.

What this means is that all partnerships (One-to-One program) will be terminated as of January 1, 2018. If files currently in process through a partnership program are submitted to the CCCWA by December 31st, the partner agency will still receive the file. That means that if you are currently pre-matched to a file, you will be able to complete the adoption. Agencies will probably (or should) begin tapering off from pre-matching as it will become increasingly unlikely that the pre-files they receive will be completed in time.

While this announcement did not specify how files will be disseminated without the partnership program, presumably they will all be added to the shared list. You can read more about what this means and what it might look like in this post.

Hosting programs will also cease. Many hosting programs were already canceled this year, so this is making changes already in place official.

The second point reads to me as if the NGO law is causing a separation between adoption agencies and charitable activities which they engage in. If an agency is not listed as an NGO, trips to visit orphanages will no longer occur. Does this mean that aid programs which took place under the partnership system will also stop? Probably, but we will see how it plays out.

The final point seems to be indicating that waivers will continue to not be granted. The CCCWA seems to feel that agencies should be more selective in the matches they make and not jump at any family for a file.

 

I will continue to update on the blog as information comes available.

Book review: One Child

I’ve been wanting to read One Child by Mei Fong for awhile. It finally came available at my local library so I picked it up to read on vacation. I thought this was a solid book which touched on many topics of life in China today which are related, but are typically treated separately. Fong has lived in China for many years, and the amount of interviews she included to illustrate the points really helps you to see what it is like to live this as a Chinese citizen.

Fong discusses the development of the “one child” policy. She was able to interview both people involved in developing it, as well as people who were publicly opposed at the time. She spent some time discussing a campaign to convince citizens to voluntarily reduce the number of children they choose to have. She felt this was more effective than the one child policy would eventually become. It is generally accepted that as a country achieves industrialization and education rates rise, there is a corresponding drop in birth rates. I think it’s likely that this preliminary push to reduce birth rates fell at the same time that China reached this industrialization/education point, so it might not have been the campaign alone. Fong also discusses why she feels the birth rate will not increase despite the lifting of the family planning regulations. For many married couples who are both only children, the responsibility of caring for four aged parents in the future causes them to feel they cannot take on the financial burden of a second child, too.

Fong examines the sacrifices that parents make in order to have their only child be successful in life. This puts an enormous pressure on the child. It also causes the parents to feel some amount of ownership over the child’s life as an adult. For example, the pressure to marry soon after graduation from schooling. Being of Chinese heritage herself, Fong does a good job putting all of this into context of the culture views of filial piety. She also includes sections on the migration of young people of fertile age for jobs, and how the grandparents often end up parenting their children. She looks at the lives of parents whose only child died past the point where they could have another child and how not having a child to care for them could impact their future welfare.

Difficult topics like the means used by the government to enforce the one child policy, such as forced abortions or sterilizations, are discussed by Fong in depth. When discussing the disadvantage that uneducated men have in the marriage market, she travels to one such town. Trafficking women to be sold as wives has become a problem in rural areas like this, but she also encounters a pair of men who were swindled by women who agreed to marry them for a very high bride price but ran away with the money soon after the weeding.

There is a chapter on adoption in China which was mostly accurate. Fong feels that she was an unwanted daughter in a family which highly values males, so I don’t feel she touched on the fact that boys are also available for adoption, nor does she really recognize that in urban areas girls are become preferred because boys are so expensive. She juxtaposes the China adoption program with the skyrocketing infertility rate in China, looking at infertility treatments which are available there. She quipped that there are more wealthy Chinese couples traveling to American for babies (through infertility treatments or surrogacy) than there are American couples traveling to China to adopt. Considering the steep decline in international adoption, I think that’s likely true.

June 2017 China program guideline changes

The CCCWA has released the new parent eligibility guidelines, effective immediately June 30, 2017. These guidelines were published yesterday in several locations such as Rainbow Kids, No Hands But Ours, and RedThread Advocates. I waited a day to report because I knew there would be many questions as to how to interpret the new guidelines. Agencies have now had clarification, so what is in the post reflects how agencies have been told the guidelines will be interpreted. Please note that some of these clarifications might change over the next few weeks as agencies figure out the nuances. I will update as things become more definite.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Age– Parents must be at least 30. No more than 50 years age difference between the child and the youngest parent. This is the same as the previous requirement.
  • Length of marriage– Couples need to be married for 2 years for a first marriage or only 1 divorce. If there are two divorces in the history, the couple needs to be married for 5 years. Years cohabiting can count toward the marriage. This is actually more generous than the previous guideline which required 5 years of marriage for any history of divorce and did not officially say that time cohabiting counted.
  • Health– (1) Use of medication for “mental disorder” such as anxiety or depression is still allowed under the new guidelines. It is now explicitly stated that a psychological exam is required. (2) History of cancer has again appeared in the guidelines. You must be cancer free for 3 years for skin, breast, testicular, or thyroid cancer. Other types of cancer require 5 years cancer free. (3) Adoptive parents who have dwarfism themselves can only adopt from China if they adopt a child with the same condition, making official the previously unofficial policy.
  • BMI– The BMI requirement remains under 40 in order to be eligible to adopt.
  • Financial requirements– This remains a net worth of $80,000 for families plus an income of $10,000 per household member including the adopted child. The net worth is $100,000 for single parents, plus an additional $10,000 per household member above married parents. The 12/2014 guideline included a mention of “relaxing” in the case where the family did not meet the net worth requirement but were above the “local average living standards” which has now been omitted. The new guidelines say that the requirements could be relaxed for foreigners living in China. Many families were only able to qualify because they were given a cost of living waiver, so the loss of this will have a significant impact.
  • Number of children in the home– Perhaps the most significant change is that families must not have more than 5 minors (under 18) in the home or only 2 for single parents. In addition, the youngest child in the home should be at least 3 years old at time of LID. The age of the 3 year old or a minor turning 18 is determined by what age they are at the time of LOI or LID, whichever is first.
  • Frequency of adoption– There should be a year from the adoption date of the first adoption until “current adoption application date” to begin a second adoption. The current application date is submitting LOI. This means reusing a dossier is no longer an option.
  • Adopting multiple children– Previously China allowed families to adopt two unrelated children at the same time, sometimes more depending on the circumstances. The guideline says “In principle, [parents] should adopt 1 child from China at a time.” It does make an exception for twins or siblings. Adopting two unrelated children at once was a very popular option for many families. The loss of this option will also have a significant impact.
  • Singles– Two requirements regarding singles adopting were removed from the previous guidelines. One was that the age difference between a single parent and the child they are adopting cannot be greater than 45 years. The other stated that the single parent must not have children younger than age 6 in the home. Presumably this means that the requirements are now the same as married families in those areas, so this is an improvement.
  • Expatriates– American citizens residing outside of the US must live in a country which is part of the Hague agreement or has an inter-country adoption program with China.

If you are currently in process to adopt from China but no longer qualify, here is how this will effect you:

  • If you have LOA and are working towards travel—> Your process will continue normally
  • If you have a LID, PA, and are waiting for LOA—->Your process will continue normally
  • If you have PA but do not yet have a dossier logged in—->Your PA will be honored and you can continue the process
  • If you have a dossier logged in but do not yet have a match—–>You will still be able to be matched because you qualified at the time your dossier was logged in.
  • If you had started the process but are not matched nor have a dossier logged in—->You are no longer eligible for the China program
  • If your agency has you matched to a “pre-release” file but you do not have a dossier logged in—–>I have not heard this clarified specifically, but since you cannot send a LOI until the file has officially been released, I think you will not be allowed to adopt because this falls under no PA, no LID

Will the CCCWA start granting waivers again for the harder to place kids?

We will have to wait and see on that. We can hope that with the stricter guidelines, there will be some leeway as there was previously.

What about the partnerships? 

This document only contained adoptive parent eligibility requirements. Agencies are expecting information on the future of partnerships to be released separately, at some time in the near future.

Why did China make these changes? So many kids won’t get families now that you can’t adopt two at once, reuse your dossier, or adopt if you are a large family!

At the beginning of the document, China stated that this criteria is “in order to further promote the scientific and standardized level of inter-country adoption, and implement our working principle “everything for the children.” As far as I’m aware, adopting two at once was only an option in the US so they might see eliminating that as standardizing the level of inter-country adoption. This could also refer to bringing their requirements in alignment with those of other countries. If you look at the requirements of other country programs you will find that most say you can adopt a single child, specify a maximum number of children in the home, do not allow you to adopt with a baby or toddler in the home, and say that you must wait 1 or 2 years between adoptions.

These are common requirements because they are in alignment with what is considered best social work practices. Adopting a single child at a time and having over a year between adoptions allows the parents to focus on the physical and emotional needs of their new child. The same goes for not allowing an adoption with a child under age three in the home. The requirements state that “Parents should have enough time and energy to take care of the minors in the home, including the prospective adoptee.” Babies and toddlers require a lot of focused attention, the same as newly adopted children. A family who has six in the home who are spread out over a large age range will qualify sooner than a family with six under the age of five, which I have seen happen when families with young children adopt multiple children at once and have back to back adoptions.

It is very difficult to realize that you are no longer eligible to adopt from China. These new guidelines mean that our own family is no longer eligible. Even though we had no plans to adopt again, choosing not to adopt feels different from China saying you do not have the option. For many families it feels as if China is saying their family is no longer good enough, even though prior to this week you were good enough. People are looking at the children who would not be in their family if these policies had been in place previously and wondering why China now feels it isn’t in their child’s interest to be there. I understand all of these feeling. This is really hard for those families who love China and who love the children there who need families.

However, we have to keep in mind that China does not have to have an international adoption program at all. We do not have any entitlement to their children. The new rules are much closer to the rules they have had in place for the majority of the program. We have heard that China is very concerned about the amount of disruptions and dissolutions. Every single week, there are families who travel to China but decide not to adopt the child they were in process for. Perhaps China has concluded that the experiment in looser guidelines did not have good outcomes. That view might be oversimplified (certainly the special needs of the children now are greater than they were seven years ago), but even so, they are making this decision because they feel it is in the best interest of the children they place. I know many wonderful adoptive families who have more than six children, have young children, or who have adopted multiple unrelated children at once who disagree, but in the end, we have to choose to be thankful for the great number of children who were able to find families before China decided to restrict the parent criteria.

If you would like to consider another country’s adoption program, I would suggest you check program requirements at the US State Department website. Be sure to see how many adoptions occur from that country per year. A very low number indicates it is difficult to adopt from, even if an agency might say it is a good option. You can check program eligibility requirements and find agencies who have a program with that country at Rainbow Kids. For example, if you are no longer eligible to adopt from China because of family size, you might want to look at Poland, Hong Kong, Colombia, or Bulgaria.

 

 

Upcoming changes to the China program

This week three different agencies have stated that they were informed the CCCWA will soon be announcing that the partnership program will be ending, as well as other possible changes to the program. This is causing a lot of questions and anxiety for those in the China adoption community. Since there have been several program changes within the past few months, I created a “China program updates” tag for blog posts. While we have more speculation than information at the moment, I’ll try to answer the questions people are asking right now. I tried to make it clear what is certain and what is my opinion.

Does this mean the China program is ending?

No. The partnership program involves agencies agreeing to provide aid to specific orphanages in exchange for being the first to receive files from that orphanage. It is a relatively new innovation in China’s program, which is over twenty years old. Families will still be able to adopt from China without the partnership program.

Why would they end the partnership program?

If China ends the partnership program, it is likely a side effect of the law governing Non- Governmental Agencies (NGO) which went into effect January 1, 2017. I wrote about the law and it’s implications about six months ago.

Is this really new information? I thought most partnerships were ending when the contracts expired anyway.

Most families in process get their information directly from their agencies. Not all agencies have informed their families about the NGO law and how it affects partnerships, presumably because they hoped they could get NGO classification without any disruption to services for their families. Some are speculating that the information this week is merely agencies finally coming clean to their families. In that case, China would continue to honor the partnership agreements until the contract date comes to an end. For most agencies that would be within the next year. Some agencies have already had their contracts expire and are now matching solely from the shared list.

However, I don’t think that is the case. Agencies have been really struggling with the NGO law, as much as they would like to meet the requirements. It was not written intentionally to affect adoption agencies. It is very difficult for some to meet the requirements. I think that China has been trying to find a way to make it work for six months but has concluded that the partnership program is not going to be sustainable under the new law.

What about the agencies that are already certified NGOs? Will they be able to continue their partnerships?

That’s the big question, isn’t it?  There are currently only two agencies who have NGO status. Will China let them continue their partnerships or would that be seen as unfair to the other agencies? We will have to wait and see there.

What if we are waiting for a pre-release file from our agency? Will we still receive it?

A pre-release file is one that the agency has been notified by their partner orphanage is in process of being prepared. Some agencies “pre match” these potential files with families in process with their agency so that the child can be officially matched the moment the file is available. Some agencies don’t begin the matching process until the file is close to being finalized while others match quite early in the file production process.

Because these are not official files yet, there is no guarantee that they will go to the agency if partnerships are ended. We do not yet have a possible date for the ending of partnerships. One agency said by the end of 2017 while another indicated they expected them to all end as soon as next month. China does have the ability to designate files to a specific agency so it is possible they could do that if the agency indicates they already have a family. If you are not yet matched, it would be best to decline any pre-release files until this issue is settled.

If there are no partnerships, how will agencies get files?

Prior to the partnership program, all new files were added to the shared list once a month.

Will files still be designated LID only or Special Focus?

We have no way of knowing that. I would assume that the LID designation will remain because it would only slow down the process for young children with minor needs if they could be locked by families without a dossier in China. Similarly, the Special Focus designation allows a greater amount of potential families to commit to a child that might be more difficult to place. Being able to lock a file without a dossier in China is a relatively new option, and it is not available in many countries. However, some families respond much better to an actual child that they have seen in a photo so this is a very effective way to place children. Hopefully this aspect of the program will remain unchanged.

Does this mean there won’t be any more agency photolisting so I can find my child first?

Possibly, but I doubt it. China has always had the ability to designate files to a particular agency for a period of time. I think it is likely that children who have been unmatched on the shared list for a few weeks or months will be designated to a specific agency so that the agency can advocate for the child. The “former shared list” program shows that China understands this is an effective way of helping overlooked files to be seen.

Isn’t it a bad thing if partnerships end?

There were certainly positive aspects to the partnership program. Agencies were able to improve orphanage conditions by providing material aid and training to their partner orphanages. CCAI and Holt, as the two agencies with NGO recognition, might be uniquely placed to continue to provide aid to particular orphanages or meet children in the orphanages. Holt announced this week that they have received consultative status on the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. While CCAI does not have quite the same international presence for humanitarian aid, both agencies have a high reputation with the CCCWA and been involved in child welfare in China for a long time. We can hope that they continue their work in China alongside NGOs such as Love Without Boundaries or OneSky, in addition to the many China based organizations which exist.

Often agency personnel would advocate for files to be created for particular children they met, so children got the opportunity to be adopted who had been considered unadoptable by the orphanage director. Moving to the partnership ended the “feeding frenzy” for the most desired files because agencies knew that they would be receiving files from their partner orphanages to match.

Agencies might feel a certain amount of reluctance to invest advocacy resources into files which could disappear from the shared list at any moment. However, if designated file continue as I speculated above, that would help with this negative aspect.

The partnership system also gave families more time to have a file evaluated and come to a decision with less pressure. Shared list files can only be locked for 72 hours. It can be difficult to get a file review in that amount of time, particularly over weekends or holidays. Sending questions for a file update would presumably be out of the question.

Can you give me any good side to moving back to an all shared list system?

The partnership program was not without its downsides. Partnerships were an almost exclusively American phenomenon. Most other countries could not enter into a partnership contract because of their governing laws or interpretation of the Hague agreement. This made it very difficult for families in other countries to be matched with a child, particularly those in countries with restrictions on the age or special needs of the child to be adopted. The partnership system always carried the risk of encouraging corruption. Would orphanages feel pressure, implied or actual, to provide a certain amount of files for young children with minor needs to justify the agency’s “investment” at their orphanage. Moving back to an all shared list system will level the playing field in that case. Regardless of country or size of agency, all will have the same access to new files.

It will also make it easier for people who have identified a particular file to use their preferred agency to lock the file and complete the adoption. However, since people often identified files through the advocacy efforts of agencies who had the file designation, this might happen less often.

What about new regulations?

This is all speculation, but new regulations could be making official things which we have been seeing the past few months. That was the case in December 2014, which the CCCWA formalized practices which had been unofficial for quite some time.

Some things we are seeing right now is a family size limit of no more than 10 children under the age of 18 in the home and a limitation on adopting two at once or several adoptions within a shorter time frame. If a family adopts two at once, they can no longer turn around and complete another adoption within a year. At times, an agency has been informed that a family who just completed a single adoption should wait until the six month post placement visit before submitting LOI to begin another adoption.

Try to keep in mind that the current China requirements are really about as generous as they have ever been. There was a time that the China program was closed to single moms, and the previous family size limit was five children in the home so the new limit of ten is a big change for the better. Adopting two unrelated children at once is a pretty recent option. I know this is discouraging for families who have been hoping that China would begin allowing waivers again soon. It is especially hard for those who adopted from China previously but no longer qualify, or those who have been denied provisional approval for a child who might not get a family at all because they are close to aging out or have a need like Down syndrome.

Note: The new family eligibility guidelines are now available.

I hope this blog post has helped to ease fears and better understand the possibilities of upcoming changes. I will update as soon as anything official is released.