China Babies Adoption Research

China Babies Adoption Research
China Babies Adoption Research

Monday, December 31, 2007

Custody Resolved, a Move Looms

Published: December 30, 2007

MEMPHIS (AP) — An 8-year-old girl taken from an American couple and returned to her Chinese parents after a seven-year custody fight faces another big adjustment: moving to China.

Karen Pulfer Focht/Memphis Commercial Appeal, via World Picture Network
Anna Mae He with her mother, Qin Luo He. Anna is getting to know her family after years of living with foster parents.

The girl, Anna Mae He, rejoined her parents, Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He, in July, under orders from the Tennessee Supreme Court. She had lived with an American couple who took her in as an infant to help her financially struggling parents and then refused to give her back.

Now, with the custody fight resolved, Anna’s family faces deportation. Her father says it is time to head home to China.

“Next month, we’re going to do the paperwork with a federal immigration judge,” Mr. He said recently at his family’s small, two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Memphis.

Mr. He came to Tennessee to attend graduate school at the University of Memphis, but his student visa expired years ago. He was allowed to remain in the United States because of the custody fight, which began in May 2000 and ended with the court ruling in January.

“We always wanted custody to move back to China as a family,” Mr. He said.

An immigration judge agreed four years ago to delay ruling on the Hes’ immigration status, but Mr. He said that decision could come anytime now.

“If deported, we might never come back again,” Mr. He said. “With a voluntary departure, we don’t get an order.”

Mr. He said he expected to return to China by the end of February. A Memphis church, New Sardis Baptist, has begun a drive to help pay for the family’s move.

Ashok Kara, a family psychologist working with the Hes on Anna’s transition, said the girl was warming toward her parents and was getting along well with her brother, Andy, 7, and her sister, Avita, 5.

“At least on the surface, things are moving in a very positive direction,” Dr. Kara said. “She’s happy. She talks. She laughs. She jokes. Although beneath the surface where things are not easily observed, we don’t quite know what’s going on.”

A third grader, Anna earned all A’s and E’s on her latest report card. “She participates well when called up,” her teacher wrote. “I enjoy having her in class.”

Anna’s former foster parents, Jerry and Louise Baker, won a court order five years ago barring the Hes from any contact with Anna, so she is still just getting to know her family.

But piled up on a living room sofa one recent evening to watch cartoons, Anna, Andy and Avita shared the easy laughter of comfortable playmates.

Anna ignored questions about China or the pending move, focusing instead on the TV and a book of children’s poetry called “Falling Up.” She did find time, though, to occasionally poke Andy in the side with a foot, setting off bouts of giggling.

“She has been learning Chinese, but she’s a little bit afraid of the language,” her father said. “She told me it’s very difficult, this language. But she’s becoming more curious about China. She asks about the schools, the teachers, the children, what’s the subjects that are taught.”

Anna was born in January 1999 with her parents facing hard times financially and legally. Mr. He was accused of sexual assault by a female student at the university, a charge that cost him his scholarship and student stipend though he was acquitted at trial.

The Bakers, a suburban Memphis couple with four children of their own, were introduced to the Hes through a private foster-care organization. They volunteered to take in Anna for a few months but decided later to adopt her, even though the Hes wanted her back.

The Bakers accused the Hes of being unfit parents and argued that Anna would have a better life in America than in China.

In 2004, a Memphis judge took away the Hes’ parental rights on grounds of abandonment, a decision that drew widespread criticism as culturally and ethnically biased.

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the Hes thought they were giving up their daughter for a short time so she could get health insurance and lost custody largely because of their ignorance of American law. It ordered the family to be reunited.

Dr. Kara said he had hoped Anna would have more time to bond with her family before moving to a country with an unfamiliar culture and language.

“But the way things were set up, they were allowed to stay here until a resolution, and the resolution has taken place,” he said.

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China-Babies Research

Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Are Mine

You Are Mine
by Kelly Feichtinger

I love you
Though I have yet to see your face.
You are mine.

I dream of holding you in my arms
My child from far away
You are mine.

I like awake at night
Imagining who you will be.
You are mine.

I prepare our home and my heart
To receive such a precious child.
You are mine.

I pray for your happiness and safety
Until I can be the one to provide it.
You are mine.

I hold my breath
As we wait for the call.
You are mine.

I will the time to fly by
As we wait fir permission to travel
You are mine.

I feel as though my heart will burst
When you are placed in my arms.
You are mine.

You rest your soft cheek against mine
And sigh contentedly.
I am yours.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Faces of the Abandoned

China's orphanages used to be seen as dumping grounds for unwanted children. No longer. An on-scene report from a volunteer caregiver.

By Noelle Chun | Newsweek Web Exclusive

The first time I met Jun Jun, she was quieter than the other children. The reason? She'd been separated from her foster parents and returned to a children's home to ready herself for permanent adoption. At first, she padded around in her puffy purple dress, eyebrows arched as she cautiously watched other kids play before jumping in. But she soon warmed up. Revving back a few paces, she sprinted into my arms. I tossed her up and down amid happy squeals of "yah yah yah yah!" She played with a boldness that often left her on her head or flat on her face. The caretakers practiced lunging as they reached to catch her.

I met Jun Jun during the two and a half weeks I spent in Beijing and its vicinities volunteering at homes for Chinese orphans. I wasn't sure what to expect before I arrived. With access to the homes typically limited, most foreign perceptions of the country's orphanages are informed by pieces such as "The Dying Rooms," a 1995 British hidden-camera documentary that gave rise to a scathing expose of neglect of Chinese orphans.

It's different now. While the conditions of the hundreds of state-run orphanages in China are still largely unknown, U.S. agencies participating in the China Center of Adoption Affairs's international adoption program say that at least some of China's state-run homes are now equipped with better facilities, such as new cribs, heaters, air conditioners and medical equipment. There are no definitive estimates on the number of orphans in China, though Children's Hope International believes there are around 600,000, with 70,000 of them in state-run programs. "Orphanage care in China is superior to that found in any other country," says Katie Biddle of the Hawaii International Adoption Agency. "They really put money into the kids."

The privately run facilities I worked at certainly bore no resemblance to those dying rooms. Instead, I found simple but clean and conscientiously run facilities, taking close care of more than 100 children.

By the time I left, I saw a new side of China. I had seen the painted faces of Shanghai girls in their shiny heels. I had also seen the bare feet of the countryside. But this was the first time I saw the faces of the abandoned. The classic foreign stereotype is that Chinese orphanages are filled with young girls, pushed out of the family by the dual forces of preference for boys and the nation's one-child policy. But these homes were different. Workers cared for the frailest of children, those suffering from serious birth abnormalities such as heart defects, anal atresia, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, seizure disorders and other cosmetic abnormalities. Here are some of my experiences:

In Shanxi province, it was hard tell when the day began and ended. The washing machine labored at all hours with its loads of dirty cloth diapers; infants wheezed; oxygen machines hummed and toddlers squealed. The day passed in three shifts of ayi--or aunties, the common term for a caregiver--with one ayi for every two children at any given time. The four home directors lived on-site in rooms adjacent to the main office. The night that 1-month-old Li Li almost died, they traversed sleeplessly between the babies' cribs and their own iron bunk beds, monitoring the delicate little girl's crashing oxygen levels. Earlier that morning, the doctors had said the new rattle in her lung was pneumonia. Through the night, the ayi tirelessly worked to support Li Li's dying respiratory system until the medicine could kick in.

Illnesses such as pneumonia were common, especially among the infants with their fragile immune systems. The ayi kept a special quarantine room with restricted access to minimize infections, but when the humidity got bad enough, that wasn't sufficient. Sick babies often spent hours in the nearby clinic, hooked up to IVs with wet towels on their heads, the ayi stroking their tiny hands while doctors hunted for miniscule veins. When Ban Ban first arrived at the home, the pudgy 2-year-old had been in a coma for months. She suffered from a seizure disorder so severe that the constant trickle of medicine kept her unconscious.

Beth, the home director, took the toddler under wing, following doctors' orders as she slowly reduced her seizure medication. Surprisingly, as Ban Ban's medicine decreased, so did her seizures. Not too soon after, Ban Ban awoke and started crying for the first time in months. In a small way, Ban Ban was re-introduced to life.

Bao Bao doesn't sound like he was born with a birth defect. But you can't miss it when you look at the 4-year-old. The middle of his forehead protruded into a bump about the size of a baby eggplant. It slipped down his nose, where his nostrils were left slightly open. At the peak of his lips, there was a delicate slit. Bao Bao had been told about another place--America--where he will receive surgery to smooth out his forehead and reshape his nose. When he is big and strong enough, that's when he will go.

But that will come later. For now, Bao Bao, two ayi and I sprawled across the beds of a three-story sleeper car on our way to Beijing, where he was to be taken into the care of a new foster family. He spent the eight-hour ride by singing "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" in Chinese and by eating Bugles, peaches, bread, instant noodles, cucumber, dried haw candy and strawberry and milk drinks. "Wo chi bao le, jiu la si le!" he cried, in lispy Mandarin: "I eat 'till I'm full, then poop to death!"

Bao Bao was not the only orphan going to Beijing. Across from Bao Bao and his ayi, 1-month-old Xiao Cong curled up quietly against the breast of his caretaker. Cong Cong was born with anal atresia, which meant he had no anus. Weeks earlier, doctors had attempted reconstruction, but the surgery failed--possibly because Cong Cong was still too young. That left him dangerously susceptible to infection. Staff at the orphanage wanted him treated in Beijing, where hospital resources are better. Halfway through the journey, the man in the bunk above Bao Bao descended. He paged through Bao Bao's photo memory book with him.

"Who is that?" the man asked.

"Bao Bao!"

"Who are your mother and father?"

"He has no mother and father," said Bao Bao's ayi. "Bao Bao, who is your mommy?"

Bao Bao starts listing names immediately.

"Who are these people?" asked the man.

"They're the aunties in the orphanage," the ayi responded, smiling.


The building is almost a mirror image of the Beijing children's home across the way. The room has the same large playroom, matching foam play mats on the ground and bedrooms with cribs. The ayi even wear the same blue floral tops.

The difference, though, is immeasurable. This is the place children come when all possibilities of cure are exhausted. This is the orphan hospice. The children laughed and rolled around on the play mats, clear oxygen tubes dangling from their noses. Two toddlers with inoperable heart defects sat on the laps of the ayi. The youngsters were small and thin for their ages. Their mouths, fingers and toes were tinged with purple hue from lack of oxygen, as if they had eaten too many blueberries.

Nearby, a boy and a girl, both 2-year-olds with encephalitis, lay on pillows on the play surface. Internal fluid had inflated the top of their heads to about the size of a soccer balls. Their delicate skin looked shiny and translucent, the tautness pulling a vastness into their eyes, as they looked around wildly. They held my hand tightly when I slipped my finger in their palms. They smiled at dangling toys.

Some of the children had to stay in their cribs, spina bifida curving their backs into an extreme S shape. The ayi wheeled their beds into the main playroom, so they could join everyone else.

This home only gives up when the last thread of hope is severed.

The young girl with encephalitis, Tai Tai, went to doctors around the country to see if an operation could save her. All the doctors said they could not place a shunt to drain the fluid, but the hospice workers still want to try one more doctor in Hong Kong.

A dying life, hospice workers say, is just as valuable as a living one. They bounce the children up and down, played ball with them and hugged them to fill the babies' pitifully last few days with affection. Although the organization itself is not a religious one, some Roman Catholic staff sometimes baptize the babies before they die, hoping to give them a heavenly Father in absence of an earthly one.

Permanent adoption is the best option for these children. Jun Jun was one of the lucky ones. Her ride arrived in the early morning, while the directing staff was still eating breakfast in the kitchen and Jun Jun was still asleep. The ayi gently shook her awake and dressed her in the prettiest clothes they could find--green pants with embroidered flowers, a yellow dress with a collar and tapered sleeves, and pink plastic sandals. When it was time to go, Jun Jun climbed into the van herself. She was smiling as the door closed.

For the most part, where adopted children live remained a mystery to the ayi. Children who still had physical or mental abnormalities could not be adopted within China. But those like Jun Jun, who had come to the children's home with a cleft palate, could go anywhere in the world if they were in perfect health.

Esther, the youngest ayi to take care of Jun Jun, left before Jun Jun rolled away in the orphanage van. I found her inside the kitchen washing applesauce off plastic bowls. Her glasses seemed to need constant cleaning that morning, and she took them off frequently to wipe on her tunic.

Later on the way to the park, I asked her how she felt when she had to say goodbye. She took her glasses off again, wiped them and put them back on. And then she smiled. "I feel happy for them," she said. "I really don't like to say goodbye, but they are going to go to have a new family that loves them. We hope it for them all."

Editor's Note: Names of the children mentioned in this piece have been changed to protect their identities.

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Adoption by the dozen: Couple parents 17 children

By Richard O Jones

Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

FAIRFIELD TWP. — "Christmas can be very loud around here," said Scott Rosenow, looking at the crowd of Christmas stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel.

But that was far from a complaint.

Forgive him if he says that with a fair amount of pride and indescribable joy.

Rosenow, 50, and his wife, Kathy, 48, have worked hard at creating a large and loving family, which in the last week has grown to 17 children with the finalization of three adoptions, plus a new son-in-law and a grandchild on the way.

The Rosenows have four biological children. Erin, their second, now 26, was born with severe learning disabilities and communication disorders, plus a damaged kidney and malformed bladder valves. Her first surgery was at age 3½.

The youngest, Ryan, now 18, was born without a right hand. Doctors at first told them there was nothing that could be done, but they met a team of surgeons in Louisville, Ky., who did the first of 25 surgeries when he was 10 months old. It was to get closer to these surgeons that the Rosenows moved from Alabama.

When Ryan was 2, Kathy heard a radio interview with Tim Burke, who gave up a $600,000 salary as a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds so that he could help his wife, Christine, take care of the four special-needs children they adopted.

"Their story was fascinating, and we thought we could do that, too," Kathy said. "We had seen the bonding that had taken place between Ryan and Erin. They both were getting beat up by the world.

"Erin would come home from school crying because they were so hard on them, so we determined early on that our house would be a safe place for them. We taught them to treat each other with respect and we did not allow them to make fun of each other.

"When we started finding out about so many kids out there without a place to go, we started talking about adoption."

It wasn't easy for them, nor something they undertook right away. The cost of Erin's therapies and the various operations on her and Ryan had emptied the family's savings accounts, and adoptions — especially international adoptions — were very expensive.

Six years later, they heard about Nathan, a newborn who was abandoned outside an orphanage in Bolivia, so young that his umbilical cord was still attached.

"That's our son," Scott said. "We've got to get him out of there."

And when Kathy protested that they just couldn't afford it, Scott replied, "That's God's problem."

For four months they sent out letters and explained the situation to everyone they knew. They eventually borrowed $7,000 to get the rest of the money so they could go to Bolivia to get their son.

"While we were there, we were amazed at the poverty," Kathy said. "We'd never left the country before, and we realized that in America we have everything and they have almost nothing. We saw disabled people begging in the streets, and we realized that was the life Nathan would have been destined to have had we not gone down there to get him."

After they brought Nathan home, they'd watch him play with his brothers and sisters on the floor.

"Before long, we started thinking we could do one more, but it just kept going," Kathy said.

The family has or will, in the near future, adopt 13 children.

"We weren't trying to build a family," Scott said. "We were trying to save a child."

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dying orphan saved by Chinese transplant


The adopted American girl Kailee Wells, her mother Linda Wells and Wang Lin share a light moment at an event organized by the Red Cross Society of China held in Beijing yesterday. This was the first time for Kailee to meet Wang who donated bone marrow to save the 10-year-old girl.


AN adopted American girl who had been dying from bone marrow failure but survived after a transplant finally met her donor in an emotional get-together yesterday in her homeland of China.

Ten-year-old Kailee Wells presented a tearful Wang Lin with a picture frame inscribed: "You are my hero. I will love you forever," The Associated Press reported.

Wang swept Kailee up in a big hug when they met in Beijing at the gathering organized by the Red Cross Society of China.

"To see her standing before me, I feel so moved, so happy," said Wang, 30, a doctor from the eastern city of Hangzhou. "The fact that we could be matched among this sea of people is a matter of fate."

The bespectacled Kailee, wearing a maroon dress with white lace, stood shyly by and held Wang's hand.

Born in the central province of Hunan, Kailee was found abandoned on the steps of a training institute for teachers in the city of Changde. She spent a year in an orphanage before being adopted by the Wells family of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Just after turning five, she fell ill with aplastic anemia, in which the bone marrow stops producing blood platelets and red and white blood cells.

After a desperate and unsuccessful search on international marrow donor Websites, Kailee's mother, Linda Wells, came to China in 2003 hoping to find a match, preferably from a sibling. But none was found.

In 2005, from a donor pool that had expanded to about 300,000 people, Wang - who is the father of a young son - was found as a suitable candidate.

After one unsuccessful transplant with cells that were not a perfect match, Kailee had her second in November 2005 with Wang's bone marrow but her blood counts decreased.

In February, she had her third transplant - which her mother said was her last chance - and it was successful.

At yesterday's ceremony, Wang gave Kailee a calendar with photos of his family.

When asked how she felt about meeting her benefactor, Kailee said one word: "Pleasure."

Owen Wells, her father, told Wang he was "Kailee's special daddy" as he shook hands with him.

Kailee and her family, who now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, say they will be spending Christmas in China and want to help recruit more marrow donors. They will also make a trip to Hunan to meet other orphans, The AP said.

The number of China's bone marrow donors on the registry has grown from tens of thousands in 2003 to 700,000 today, thanks to a better understanding of the procedure by ordinary Chinese citizens.

"More people need to have basic knowledge of it. At present they are frightened when they hear about marrow donation," said Hong Junling, director of the Red Cross Society's blood and stem cell program. "They need to know there's no harm to their health."

Even with 700,000 potential donors, only 60 percent of people who need a match will find one, Hong said. Having between 2 million and 5 million people on the registry will mean the demand can be fully met, he said.

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Love At First Sight Saves Child

By Ann Rubin

(KSDK) - His future was uncertain at an orphanage in China. But his photo struck a cord with a family from Ballwin and they were determined to rescue him.

The bonds have a tight-knit family, though like most, they've faced their challenges. The children, Samantha and Drew were born with ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic disorder that affects their teeth, hair, and ability to sweat.

It was at a support group for the disorder that they first heard about Ben.

Kevin Bond says, "His little needs were pressing he was on his last opportunity to be adopted."

Ben suffered from a variation of the same thing, except he was at an orphanage in China.

Carrie Bond says, "We actually were not looking to adopt at all."

Still she says, they decided to look at his photo and say a prayer for the little boy to get a family. She says, "I pulled him up and fell head over heels in love. It was like I just knew."

Within 24-hours, the Bonds committed to the adoption. Ten months later, they brought Ben back to the U.S. But his condition was much more complicated than they realized. Ben has a cleft lip and palate, as well as cleft hands and feet. He also has problems with his hearing from infections left untreated at the orphanage.

Doctors at St. Louis children's hospital say he'll likely need at least ten surgeries. Dr. Gregory Borschel says, "This kind of stuff would be unlikely for him to get in china so we value greatly this team approach."

Kevin Bond says, "All the extra needs that he has and extra expenses, has really revealed what it costs to adopt. But it just drives our love for him deeper and deeper and deeper."

The costs they say are nothing compared to the benefits they've received. This Christmas, Ben's stocking hangs with the others. This Christmas, the Bonds say their family seems complete.

Carrie says, "Something was missing and we didn't even know it until he was here."

In the coming months, Ben will undergo procedures for his hands and his ears. His family wants to get him ready for pre-school in the fall.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Study Quantifies Orphanage Link to I.Q.

Published: December 21, 2007

Psychologists have long believed that growing up in an institution like an orphanage stunts children’s mental development but have never had direct evidence to back it up.

Now they do, from an extraordinary years-long experiment in Romania that compared the effects of foster care with those of institutional child-rearing.

The study, being published on Friday in the journal Science, found that toddlers placed in foster families developed significantly higher I.Q.’s by age 4, on average, than peers who spent those years in an orphanage.

The difference was large — eight points — and the study found that the earlier children joined a foster family, the better they did. Children who moved from institutional care to families after age 2 made few gains on average, though the experience varied by child. Both groups, however, had significantly lower I.Q.’s than a comparison group of children raised by their biological families.

Some developmental psychologists had sharply criticized the study and its sponsor, the MacArthur Foundation, for researching a question whose answer seemed obvious. But previous efforts to compare institutional care and foster care suffered from serious flaws, mainly because no one knew whether children who landed in orphanages were different in unknown ways from those in foster care. Experts said the new study should put to rest any doubts about the harmful effects of institutionalization — and might help speed adoptions from countries that still allow them.

“Most of us take it as almost intuitive that being in a family is better for humans than being in an orphanage,” said Seth Pollak, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, who was not involved in the research. “But other governments don’t like to be told how to handle policy issues based on intuition.”

“What makes this study important,” Dr. Pollak went on, “is that it gives objective data to say that if you’re going to allow international adoptions, then it’s a good idea to speed things up and get kids into families quickly.”

In recent years many countries, including Romania, have banned or sharply restricted American families from adopting local children. In other countries, adoption procedures can drag on for many months. In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, Americans adopted 20,679 children from abroad, more than half of them from China, Guatemala and Russia.

The authors of the new study, led by Dr. Charles H. Zeanah Jr. of Tulane and Charles A. Nelson III of Harvard and Children’s Hospital in Boston, approached Romanian officials in the late 1990s about conducting the study. The country had been working to improve conditions at its orphanages, which became infamous in the early 1990s as Dickensian warehouses for abandoned children.

After gaining clearance from the government, the researchers began to track 136 children who had been abandoned at birth. They administered developmental tests to the children, and then randomly assigned them to continue at one of Bucharest’s six large orphanages or join an adoptive family. The foster families were carefully screened and provided “very high-quality care,” Dr. Nelson said.

On I.Q. tests taken at 54 months, the foster children scored an average of 81, compared with 73 among the children who continued in an institution. The children who moved into foster care at the youngest ages tended to show the most improvement, the researchers found.

The comparison group of youngsters who grew up in their biological families had an average I.Q. of 109 at the same age, said the researchers, who announced their preliminary findings in Romania as soon as they were known.

“Institutions and environments vary enormously across the world and within countries,” Dr. Nelson said, “but I think these findings generalize to many situations, from kids in institutions to those in abusive households and even bad foster care arrangements.”

In setting up the study, the researchers directly addressed the ethical issue of assigning children to institutional care, which was suspected to be harmful.

“If a government is to consider alternatives to institutional care for abandoned children, it must know how the alternative compares to the standard care it provides,” they wrote. “In Romania, this meant comparing the standard of care to a new and alternative form of care.”

Any number of factors common to institutions could work to delay or blunt intellectual development, experts say: the regimentation, the indifference to individual differences in children’s habits and needs; and most of all, the limited access to caregivers, who in some institutions can be responsible for more than 20 children at a time.

Dr. Pollak said, “The evidence seems to say that for humans, we need a lot of responsive care giving, an adult who recognizes our distinct cry, knows when we’re hungry or in pain, and gives us the opportunity to crawl around and handle different things, safely, when we’re ready.”

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Kailee Wells - Greets Marrow Donor

BEIJING (AP) — An adopted American girl who had been dying from bone marrow failure but survived after a transplant finally met her donor in an emotional ceremony Thursday in her homeland of China.

Ten-year-old Kailee Wells presented a tearful Wang Lin with a picture frame inscribed with the words: "You are my hero. I will love you forever."

Wang swept Kailee up in a big hug when they met at the event organized by the Red Cross Society of China.

"To see her standing before me, I feel so moved, so happy," said Wang, 30, a doctor from the eastern city of Hangzhou. "The fact that we could be matched among this sea of people is a matter of fate."

The bespectacled Kailee, wearing a maroon dress with white lace, stood shyly by and held Wang's hand.

Born in the central province of Hunan, Kailee was found abandoned on the steps of a training institute for teachers in the city of Changde. She spent a year in an orphanage before being adopted by Owen and Linda Wells.

Just after turning 5, she fell ill with aplastic anemia, in which the bone marrow stops producing blood platelets and red and white blood cells.

After a desperate and unsuccessful search on global marrow donor bases, Mrs. Wells came to China in 2003 in hopes of finding a match, preferably from a sibling. But none was found.

In 2005, amid a donor pool that had expanded to about 300,000 people, Wang — who himself has a young son — was found as a suitable candidate.

After one unsuccessful transplant with cells that were not a perfect match, Kailee had her second in 2005 with Wang's bone marrow, but her blood counts decreased.

In February, she had a third transplant — which her mother said was her last chance — and it was successful.

At Thursday's ceremony, Wang gave Kailee a calendar with photos of his family.

When asked how she felt about meeting her benefactor, Kailee said one word: "Pleasure."

Owen Wells told Wang he was "Kailee's special daddy" as he shook hands with him.

Kailee and her family, who live in Milwaukee, Wis., say they will be spending Christmas in China and want to help recruit marrow donors. They will also make a trip to Hunan to meet orphans.

The number of China's bone marrow donors on the registry has grown from tens of thousands in 2003 to 700,000 today, thanks to increased understanding of the procedure by Chinese.

"More people need to have basic knowledge of it. Now they feel horror when they hear about marrow donation," said Hong Junling, director of the Red Cross Society's blood and stem cell program. "They need to know there's no harm to their health."

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Crouching Tiger star goes into battle for million hidden orphans

Jane Macartney in Chengdu

The screen goddess stooped to give ten-year-old Li Hubin a teddy bear and a hug. The room fell silent as Zhang Ziyi, the star of Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, listened to the chatter of the child who made history by becoming the first orphan to be handed to foster parents in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

For a disabled orphan in China, the chances of finding a loving home were once slim. But Zhang has teamed up with a British social worker to make sure that more abandoned children are given the chance of a family life.

Care for Children, a British-founded charity, has pioneered the concept of foster care in China.

“There are so many in China who do not have my good fortune. I want to give something back to society and since I love children this seemed like a way for me to make a difference,” Zhang, the charity’s patron, said. Such words from a screen idol could actually make a difference in a country where charity work is in its infancy.

When Robert Glover, the founder of the charity, arrived in Shanghai a decade ago there was no word for foster care in the Chinese language. With British government backing and a Chinese go-ahead, he advised the Shanghai state orphanage with the goal of founding a foster-care programme and childcare training. Today the charity has moved into a new headquarters in Beijing and Mr Glover has big ambitions for a programme that operates under the full aegis of the Chinese civil affairs programme.

“I say we have a vision for a million children in foster care. If I said 10,000 then we might only achieve 10,000, so why not say a million and see just how many children we can help?” he said.

The number has already climbed into the tens of thousands, from zero when he started. The families that offer homes to orphans linked to Care for Children and its Chinese parent organisation are effectively taking a child for life. They receive a small financial subsidy. This has enabled many poorer couples, and those who already have a child under the strict one-couple, one-child family planning policy, to take an orphan into their home. “They don’t make money, but they don’t lose,” Mr Glover said.

The transformation wrought by moving children, many of them disabled, into a loving family home can verge on the miraculous. He cites a failure rate of 7 per cent in China compared with about 25 per cent in the West. “China does family very well. You’ll find the entire village gets behind a family,” Mr Glover said. The progress of Hubin has astonished even Mr Glover, who remembers first seeing him as a year-old baby lying motionless in an orphanage, almost paralysed by cerebral palsy. When the boy was handed at the age of 3 to foster parents he could do nothing for himself. “We didn’t think he could ever use his fingers to hold a pen or to write so we tried to teach him the piano to exercise his fingers,” his mother said. He now plays fluently. “My favourite tune is Safeguarding the Yellow River,” he said, pouring milk into a glass and taking a gulp. He is hoping to have a try at Beethoven soon. He can also read and write.

Zhang offered to autograph his teddy bear and showed him what she had written. Hubin read out loud: “Study hard!”

Tens of thousands more such children still await foster parents but Mr Glover is confident that the foster programme he helped to set up is now deeply embedded in China. It is expanding at such a pace that he has long since stopped trying to keep count of the numbers.

Fostering ties

- The Hawaiian practice of hanai allowed parents to chose others to bring up a child if they believed that this was in its best interest. Parents could never reclaim their child but were expected to maintain contact through regular visits

- A study of fostering in Iran in the 1990s documented fostering based on “milk kinship”. Children wet-nursed by another woman became her milk children and she and her husband could foster them if their own parents were unable to care for them

- The US has a system of kinship foster care in which a family, in consultation with a social worker, may choose to give a child to the care of relatives, often grandparents, for a set period. A court can also insist that a child is placed with kin if necessary

- In Burkino Faso, children are often fostered by other families for a relatively short period, spending on average just under three years away from home. It is thought this developed to address imbalances in the age, number and sex of children in different households

Source: Universities of Kent, Yale and Hawaii, Hilo; Pediatric Nursing Magazine

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

U.S. Joins Overseas Adoption Overhaul Plan

By JANE GROSS, New York Times
Published: December 11, 2007

The United States, the world leader in international adoptions, will join more than 70 nations committed to standardizing policies, procedures and safeguards to reduce corruption in the largely unregulated adoption marketplace.

International Adoptions When the United States ratifies the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption tomorrow in the Netherlands, it will establish federal oversight of adoption policies and policies overseas.

The multilateral treaty is designed to protect children, birth parents and adoptive parents from shady practices, including hidden fees and child abduction.

Each nation names a central authority — here, the State Department — to establish ethical practices, require accreditation for the agencies handling the adoptions, maintain a registry to track complaints and create a system for decertifying agencies that do not meet the standards.

In addition, once the treaty is fully put in place in April, parents seeking a visa for an overseas adoption must demonstrate to the State Department that a child has been properly cleared for adoption, that a local placement had been considered, and that the birth parents were counseled on their decision and have signed consent forms. Prospective adoptive parents also must show they are properly trained for what could be a rocky transition.

“Americans adopt more foreign-born children than all other countries in the world combined,” said Maura Harty, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs. “As a Hague Convention country we can — we must — require reform and transparency in some countries or adoptions to the U.S. will stop.”

A sharp departure from current practice, the provisions of the treaty could slow the process and frustrate prospective parents. But many more may be spared the broken promises and broken hearts of the current system, which includes no federal oversight of agencies working overseas. The system also has no sanctions against agencies that lure families with photos of unavailable children and encourage them to bribe foreign bureaucrats to expedite an adoption.

“Who can anticipate?” said Regina Robb, the Guatemala program director for World Links, an agency in Scranton, Pa., that has applied for accreditation. “At the end of the day, having a system in place will help, but it will largely depend on how ready a country is to assume the rules of the Hague.”

Ms. Robb predicted the worst problems for adoptions from Guatemala, which has ratified the treaty but has not developed legislation to enact it. The United States has threatened to suspend adoptions from there because of accusations of corruption. Agencies working in countries that have ratified the treaty must be accredited, a process under way in the United States.

More than 300 applications have already been filed and others will be accepted until Feb. 15, 2008, when approvals and rejections will be announced. Among the criteria are the size and qualifications of the staff, the agency’s financial resources and its policies, which must include a transparent fee structure and mandatory training for parents about the physical and emotional condition of orphans.

With a federal registry of approved agencies, families will have access to information that is currently unavailable. In the last seven years, Americans adopted almost 120,000 children from overseas, according to the State Department, which recently released preliminary data for 2007 showing a decline for the third year in a row.

Adoptions dropped from a peak in 2004, with 22,884, to 19,292 in 2007. Experts attribute the decline to more stringent eligibility in China, the most popular place for intercountry adoptions by Americans, and to on-and-off suspension of the international adoption program in Russia.

China sent 5,453 children to American families in 2007, down from 7,906 in 2005. Russia’s total dropped to 2,207, from 3,706 in 2006. Adoptions increased from Guatemala (to 4,728 from 4,135 in 2006), Ethiopia ( to 1,255 from 732) and Vietnam (up to 626 from 163). China has ratified the treaty; neither Ethiopia nor Vietnam has signed it; and Russia has signed but not ratified it.

The United States will continue to process adoptions from countries not party to the convention. But prospective parents will know if an American agency is not accredited, a potential red flag.

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For all the waiting children

Anne Hart | Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 12:30 am

The McNally family is waiting for Jun, a special needs child from China, to be ready for adoption.

Dear JT,

You don't know them yet, but your future mom and dad already call you their son.

They can't wait to meet you.

A photo of you holding a cookie sits in their den among other treasured McNally family photos. It's in a frame next to their son, Aiden, 4, and daughter, Ireland, 6, your future brother and sister.

Your mom, Monica, plans to travel to China to get you as soon as all the authorities involved in the adoption say it's OK. She and your dad, John, wait every day to receive notice that you can come home.

Monica and John completed a mountain of paperwork in order to bring you into their family. They started in April and hoped to have you here by Christmas.

But chances are you won't be home until this spring, perhaps around your third birthday.

Extraordinary parents

You won't realize this until you're much older, but your parents are extraordinary.

All parents who adopt children with special needs are.

After having two children, Monica and John wanted another child.

They know the world is full of children in need of parents. Monica sometimes went to bed with swollen eyes from crying over all the faces she saw on Internet adoption sites. All those children waiting for parents broke her heart.

She wanted to help at least one "waiting child."

Monica fell in love with you when she saw your photo on one of those sites.

She and John learned about your intestinal problems that will require one surgery, maybe two, maybe more. They don't know for certain. The medical records are vague.

Adopting a child with special needs and an unknown medical future might have stopped some couples. Not your parents. They already loved you.

They decided to take a leap of faith.

An important place

When your parents began looking into adoption, they knew they didn't want to take a healthy child away from a couple who couldn't have kids. Instead, your parents wanted to adopt "a waiting child," one who might never find parents.

Monica and John think about you so much each day. They've never touched you, smelled you or held you, but they miss you. They worry about you.

They wonder what you're doing in the orphanage, if you're cold, if your crib is comfortable, if you're getting enough hugs.

You were brought to that orphanage when you were only a few days old. It's the only home you've known after being abandoned at a police station.

Whoever left you at that police station wanted to make sure you were in a safe place where you would be found and cared for. That's what Monica says, rather than think badly of your birth mom. See what I mean about your adoptive parents being special?

Monica and John know the orphanage will always be an important place in your life. Monica sent a blanket there already, to soak up the scent. She plans to bring it back here when she comes to get you. So you will have something in your new home with the familiar scent of your first home.

She'll also take photos of the orphanage and the Henan province where you're from. Your parents don't want you to forget your roots.

Your given name, Jun, means army military, Monica says. Which means you'll fit in fine at the McNally house. Monica and John met in flight school. Both were military pilots. Today, John is a U.S. Army pilot.

Before having kids, Monica and John were stationed in South Korea for two years. They fell in love with children who lived below them. That's where the seed for adopting an Asian child was planted.

Sharing your story

Your brother and sister talk about you a lot. Ireland said she can't wait to sing you a lullaby. They make drawings for you. When a shirt is too small, Ireland says "Save it for JT." Aiden promises to share his room - and bunk beds. Clothes are already hanging in your closet for you.

Your new name, JT, stands for your given name and for John, after your father. The T is for Theodore, your future grandfather. You were born on his birthday.

Friends and relatives know how strongly your new family feels about you. They're doing what they can to help John and Monica come up with the remaining $6,000 they need out of the roughly $20,000 it costs to adopt a child from China.

Folks at St. Frances Cabrini, where Aiden and Ireland go to school, are throwing fundraisers.

Monica and friends also have wrapped presents and sold baked goods outside of OshKosh, where Monica's working to help cover the costs in a small way.

Your parents want to share your story with as many people as possible.

They hope it will encourage other parents to take that leap of faith and adopt a special-needs child.

Because every waiting child deserves a home.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Change 4 Orphans

Alex's Notes: This is an excerpt from the website of a young lady who is taking an active role in making the world a little bit of a better place. I encourage you to take a look at her website, and if you feel so inclined, send her a donation to help her accomplish her mission. Website link at the bottom of the post.


Hi my name is Leah. I live in Colorado. I am 13 and I am in 8th grade. I started this project to help children in Ethiopia. There are 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia alone. Many of them live in crowded orphanages, with neighbors, relatives or on the street because their parents are poor, sick, or have died. Some have family but they have no money to feed them or put them in school so they are brought to the orphanages. I decided that I want to start a penny drive and donate the money to help the people. My goal is to get one penny for every orphan in Ethiopia. The orphanages need supplies and medicine and the children have no toys. My family adopted my sister from Ethiopia and that is what helped me with the idea. I have been collecting donations since March 2007.

This is me giving donated $ to the manager Geday at HFTA

We personally delivered the money donated so far to Ethiopia in November 2007. There was $2084.00 collected by the time we traveled to Addis Ababa, ET. Just over $1000.00 went towards putting in a playground at The Hope For The Abandoned Children and Orphan Care Association (HFTA) where my sister lived. They will have red ash placed down to cut down the mud and a merry-go-round for the children to play on. $170 is going towards training an adult orphan to learn how to start a business and support herself. We also purchased basic supplies like diapers and bottles along with medicines and 3 large storage containers to hold clothing. We delivered 6 large duffel bags of donated clothing, shoes, notebooks and crayons directly to the orphanage.

$800.00 went towards community sponsorship of 4 children for a year to attend school, receive a school uniform, school supplies and a meal. These children live with family and I will post their information as soon as I get it. This sponsorship is handled by the Sele Enat Orphanage.

I would like to continue collecting excess change to donate to these places. You can be sure that the money is going directly to help the children. You can check back here for updates.

So, if you have any pennies in your pocket, just think about this:

The reason I chose pennies is because most people when they see a penny on the ground they just walk by it, like they didn't even see it. Most of the world is doing the same thing to the Orphans of Ethiopia. Please don't just walk by them. Make a difference.


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Strict rules stunt adoptions from China

December 5, 2007
By Lucy Gotell

Chinese adoptions are expected to decline as a result of stricter guidelines that are making it harder for British Columbians to qualify as prospective parents.
British Columbians finding it harder to adopt Chinese Children
Cathy Lopston, spokesperson for Family Services of Greater Vancouver, said the number of applications for China’s international adoption program has decreased since the China Centre of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) implemented new guidelines in May.

“I would say most adoption agencies in British Columbia – and there are six of us – most of us have seen a decline,” she said.

The CCAA implemented the guidelines, which exclude singles, people over 50 and others from the program, in response to a soaring number of applications in recent years.

“The new rules will help shorten the waiting time for qualified foreigners and speed up the process for children,” said CCAA director Lu Ying.

Singled out

Eileen Power, mother of an adopted daughter from China, said the impact of being excluded from the program would be “heartbreaking” for those who no longer qualify.

“People that really want a baby that cannot have a baby, it’s very, very difficult,” she said. “I particularly think single parents - for a single woman - to adopt a little girl, and raise that little girl, that is a very special thing.”

Although several people have been ousted from the program, Lobson said single women have been hit the hardest.

“I think the families that were really affected were single women in particular, and definitely couples that have had some health issues.”

Predictability a plus

There are several other countries where prospective parents can go for international adoption, but China’s program has an exceptionally strong reputation. Eamon Duffy, an adoptive father in Vancouver, said he was impressed throughout his experience with China’s program.
Family Services Adopton Agency
“The reason that we had looked at China was that it was a proven model in terms of how adoptions work,” he said.

Another factor in China’s popularity is Vancouver’s multicultural environment, which is thought to be ideal for raising an Asian child.

“Vancouver is a wonderful place to bring up an Asian child if you’re not an Asian family,” Power said. “And just having so many Asian people in the communities really, really does help (the child) see themselves reflected in the community.”

Lobson agrees, and said much of China’s notoriety is due to the fact that Vancouver has such a high population of Chinese families.

“Families I think felt it was a really good place to adopt from because the children that they would adopt would still be connected to their culture.”

Where do we go from here?

Despite the attraction to Chinese adoptions, people’s willingness to go with another program may depend on their determination to become parents.

“Some people feel more comfortable with one culture or another culture…it just depends,” said Power. “But usually people, if they really, really want a child, they will try (to) at least approach some of the other areas. And it may be that if they’re too difficult for them for whatever reason, they may just say, ‘well, I have to look at life differently.’”

Lobson said that some families have given up already.

“I think they felt pretty defeated, pretty deflated,” she said. “I think that some families do look at other options…and then we’ve also had families who’ve given up and just said ‘well, that’s it…I’m not going to be able to adopt.’ Because they’ve really had their heart set on adopting a child from China.”

Last year in B.C., adoptions from China accounted for 80 of a total of 263 international adoptions.

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Road to adoption frustrating, rewarding

'I feel very close to him; I couldn't ask for anything more'

By Patti Zarling

Mason Bowers is a smiley, happy 3-month-old baby who doesn't want much more than cuddles, kisses and a warm bottle.

Melissa and Shawn Bowers' road to Mason's adoption has been a long one.

And they are not alone. The 2000 U.S. Census, the first to collect data on adoption, counted 2.1 million adopted children in the U.S. About 1.6 million were younger than the age of 18, representing about 2.5 percent of the total 64.6 million children in the group. In Wisconsin, 30,583 of 1.278 million children younger than age 18 were adopted, about 2.4 percent, according to the census.

The Bowers, of Green Bay, have a 5-year-old son and tried for about three years to have a second child, but couldn't, even with the help of treatments, Melissa said. That's when they considered adoption.

They worked with a pregnant woman who was interested in giving her child to the Bowers, and they paid about six months' worth of doctor bills, rent and other expenses before the woman eventually decided to keep the baby.

"I was done," Melissa said. "It was really devastating. But we just continued … I'm glad we didn't give up."

But they connected with Mason's mom, a 25-year-old woman in Texas, when she was about four months along and kept in touch with frequent phone calls, Melissa said. Mason was born in August, and the couple brought him home about a week later.

His biological mother "knows me, she knows my family, we took her out for lunch," Melissa said. "I still send her pictures. But they say it slows down … I hope for his sake some communication continues."

Melissa said she worried how she would bond with Mason.

"We had a birth child," she said. "And I knew how close I was with Maxwell. … I wondered, 'Am I going to have the same feelings? Will I bond with the baby?'

"But it was almost a lot of wasted energy. I feel very close to him. I couldn't ask for anything more."

And Maxwell is proving to be a proud big brother.

"He plays with him all the time," Melissa said. "He says 'Go to Texas and get your own baby.' He just laughs whenever he sees him."

The average adoption takes about a year and costs between $18,000 and $25,000, according to Kim Garner, president of Wisconsin-based Community Adoption Center Inc. Expenses vary depending on the medical and personal costs adoptive parents may need to pay for the birth mother and travel expenses.

A low-end independent adoption might cost $10,000, Garner said, while international adoptions can range from $20,000 to $40,000.

Melissa said the Bowers considered adopting a foreign baby, but she wanted a newborn. They also worried about difficulties bringing home a foreign baby and traveling overseas with a small child at home.

Overall, foreign adoptions have fallen about 15 percent in the last two years, according to State Department figures for fiscal 2007.

While foreign adoptions may be on a downturn in the U.S., experts say domestic adoptions are going strong.

Although adoptions from countries such as China and Guatemala might be dipping, those from other nations, like Ethiopia, are on the rise, Garner said. Her organization handles all sorts of adoptions: independent, in which parents already know the birth mother, domestic, international and special needs.

In Wisconsin, birth mothers lose their rights in two to three weeks; one of the reasons the Bowers chose San Antonio is because in Texas the mother loses those rights within 48 to 72 hours.

"I think there's always a fear of the unknown and also a fear of the birth mother changing her mind," Garner said.

Once a family brings home the baby, Garner's agency remains the guardian of the child for six months.

After at least three home visits, the adoption is finalized in court.

Garner encourages families to be open-minded and flexible when adopting.

"There's more mixed race babies than healthy Caucasian babies," she said. "But there are still quite a few babies out there."

The Bowers plan to be open with Mason about his adoption.

"Obviously, he doesn't look like us," she said about her Hispanic son. "We'll tell him, 'You didn't grow in my tummy, but in my heart.'"

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Visiting Xiao-Ling's former orphanage in China

Alex's Notes: Interesting blog entry from a couple on the ground in China. They have some great pictures at the original entry, link at the bottom of the post.


Visiting the Orphanage

At breakfast this morning and driving around Sanya, we became well aware that this is not just a resort town for Chinese nationals, but for Russians as well. Half the signs around our hotel are in Cyrillic, as well as a lot of signs in town. We saw Russians everywhere, and the most complicated Russian word I know is "мороженое" - ice cream. Not very useful. So we may not be the only Caucasians in town, but it's probably be a safe bet that we're the only Americans.

But today's big event is that we visited Xiao-Ling's former orphanage this morning, where she spent much of her early life. Meeting some of her friends and the "aunties" who cared for her, the visit was bittersweet to say the least.

As we went from room to room, meeting kids our daughter's age to younger kids to infants, I was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. Sadness that anyone should have to go to an orphanage in the first place got all mixed up with relief that it was a good place as orphanages go, as well as a million other feelings. Looking at the kids abandoned for a whole slew of reasons, I found myself sobbing with a loving desire to adopt every single one of them, and sobbing with the realization that we can't. My head knew perfectly well what we could and could not realistically do, but my heart still had a ways to go.

After Jacquie mopped me up and my heart caught up with my head, the orphanage staff took us to lunch at a restaurant in Sanya. This was most definitely not the sort of restaurant frequented by tourists who play it safe from a culinary sense. No, this was real Sanya cuisine, and we were made aware of that fact right out front.

Yes, those are real fish in real fish tanks, which diners pick out individually. Our hosts selected a red snapper, which was cooked and brought to our table thusly:

On the one hand, the fish was delicious. On the other hand, it wouldn't stop looking at me. I swear it had a reproachful look on its face, telling us, "Why me? I have a wife and guppies at home."

The rest of lunch was face-free and ranged from a papaya soup to a tasty green vegetable to a rich beef-with-peppers mix, not to mention several other dishes. It was only when we were stuffed like geese that the meal ended.

We made a good impression on the staff - they see clearly that we love our daughter very much and would help all the children there if we could. I like to think we helped the cause of Chinese adoption today.

And finally - Happy Chanukah from China!

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Foreign Adoptions in U.S. Drop


NEW YORK (AP) — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans has dropped for the third year in a row, a consequence of tougher policies in the two countries — China and Russia — that over the past decade have supplied the most children to U.S. families.

Figures for the 2007 fiscal year, provided by the State Department on Friday, showed that adoptions from abroad have fallen to 19,411, down about 15 percent in just the past two years.

It's a dramatic change. The number of foreign adoptions had more than tripled since the early 1990s, reaching a peak of 22,884 in 2004 before dipping slightly in 2005, then falling to 20,679 in 2006.

"A drop in international adoptions is sad for children," said Thomas Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption. "National boundaries and national pride shouldn't get in the way of children having families."

Adoptions from China, the No. 1 source country since 2000, fell to 5,453. That's down by 1,040 from last year and well off the peak of 7,906 in 2005. Two main factors lie behind this: an increase in domestic adoptions as China prospers and tighter restrictions on foreign adoptions that give priority to stable married couples between 30 and 50 and exclude single people, the obese and others with financial or health problems.

One consequence, adoption agencies say, is that the waiting time to complete an adoption from China has more than doubled to 24 months or more.

Adoptions from Russia also dropped sharply over the past year — from 3,706 to 2,310. Russian authorities suspended the operations of all foreign adoption agencies for several months earlier this year and have been reaccrediting them only gradually. Like China, Russia has been trying to boost the number of domestic adoptions.

U.S. adoptions from South Korea and Haiti also declined significantly, although the overall drop was partially offset by large increases in adoptions from Guatemala (up from 4,135 to 4,728), Ethiopia (732 to 1,255) and Vietnam (163 to 626).

Tom DeFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, said adoptions from Guatemala could decline over the coming year as its government — under intense international pressure — tries to impose tough new regulations on an adoption industry that was widely viewed as susceptible to fraud and extortion.

The State Department has advised Americans not to initiate adoption applications for Guatemala while that overhaul is under way. The proposed reforms are required under an international adoption treaty, the Hague Convention, which both Guatemala and the United States have agreed to adhere to starting next year.

Overall, DeFilipo — whose council represents many international adoption agencies — found reason for optimism in the new statistics.

"What you're seeing is fewer countries sending very large numbers of children and a broader range of countries participating," he said. "Over the long term, I think this is a healthy trend."

He mentioned Kenya, Peru and Brazil as countries not now among the major sources of children, but which might increase international adoptions in coming years.

Michele Bond, deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizen services, also viewed the new figures positively.

"Interest in intercountry adoption remains very strong," she said in a telephone interview. "People are increasingly well-informed. They're more likely to look at new countries instead of always looking at the same small number of countries."

By contrast, another adoption expert, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, depicted the new numbers as "totally depressing."

She said China and Russia reflected a trend in which countries opened themselves up to international adoption, then scaled back. She attributed this in part to UNICEF and other international organizations encouraging countries to care for children within their homeland, even when domestic programs such as foster care might be inadequate.

"UNICEF is a major force," Bartholet said. "They've played a major role in jumping on any country sending large number of kids abroad, identifying it as a problem rather than a good thing."

UNICEF's child protection spokesman, Geoffrey Keele, said the U.N. agency does believe it is preferable to care for orphaned or abandoned children in their own countries if good homes could be found for them.

"The best interests of the child must be the guiding principle," he said. "We don't go about discouraging international adoption. We just want to be sure it's done properly."

Thomas Atwood, of the National Council for Adoption, said there should be no competition between domestic and international adoption. With an estimated 143 million orphans worldwide, he said, there was enough need to go around.

For U.S.-based adoption agencies, the biggest impact has been on those specializing in placing children from China.

The president of one of the largest such groups, Joshua Zhong of Colorado-based Chinese Children Adoption International, said the agency had placed about 620 children this year, down from about 1,200 in 2005, while average waiting times had increased from nine months to two years.

Some clients are so committed to adopting a Chinese child that they are willing to wait, Zhong said. "Others say forget about it."

For the second straight year, no Romanian children were adopted by Americans. The Eastern European country, which provided 1,119 children to U.S. families in 2000, has banned adoptions by foreigners, except for relatives.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cute Story and Pictures at Meng Zi Orphanage

This entry was posted over at Oriental Observations blog. There are a ton of cute pictures you can find at the original blog, there is a link at the bottom of this post.

Meng Zi Orphanage

Last year, when Katie and I visited the Rices, we were able to spend some time at the orphanage in Meng Zi. When we got to the Rices house this year, we were excited to be able to go back to the orphanage. Several of the babies and toddlers that we played with last year have been adopted and Victoria has been able to be in touch with the adoptive parents. It's so amazing to see how the lives of those orphans were revolutionized by adoption. From a run-down, poor orphanage in southern China to a comfortable life in America with closets full of clothes and shoes and loving parents. I think this is such a wonderful picture of what our true Father does for us. Lots of the children we played with last year are still there and they seem to have quite a few more babies there now than they did when we were there before. Brian and Victoria told us that their family planned to go to the orphanage on Friday and help decorate a Christmas tree for the kids. Brian's mom had sent boxes of hand-made toys and ornaments for us to pass out and use at the orphanage. What a fun and rewarding experience.

Pictures and Blog Link

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Monday, November 26, 2007

She reminds me of the most important thing

Jan Risher

Five years ago this weekend, my husband and I were in China meeting the newest member of our family. In adoption circles, our Saturday anniversary is called Gotcha Day. In honor of little Piper, our resident 5-year-old, we planned a party, invited friends and loved ones to celebrate with us.
Though we had nothing to do with the appropriateness of Piper's Gotcha Day, November happens to be Adoption Awareness Month. As an adoptive parent, I'll readily admit that I've learned a lot since expanding our family through the miracle of adoption.

I've learned from our daughter. I've learned from other adoptive parents. And, I've learned from other adopted children. But there's another essential and obvious, though often unrecognized, link in the adoption circle of love - the birth mother. In our case, she is the link we know the least about.

As her daughter, and mine, continues to grow into the amazing little human she is, I wonder and admire more and more about this woman - this mystery, I will never understand or know, but to whom I will always be grateful.
Piper wonders about her too.

She readily tells us that she misses her birth mother. She often talks about how she would like to visit her hometown and see her birth mother.

Strangely enough, a movie seems to have given Piper more peace about her situation than anything I've been able to tell her or explain. The movie is Prince of Egypt. It's the story of Moses. She had heard the Bible story long ago, but it's the movie and its music that resonate most with this little girl.

I began to recognize its impact on Piper after her repeated references to "my people."

Then came the questions - the questions she used to connect the dots between her story and Moses' story.

"Why did they put him in the basket, Mom?" she would ask.

"His mother knew he could have a better life with them, didn't she, Mom?" she would continue.

Moses' story has given Piper more consolation than I ever could on my own. She and I chatted about my writing this column. I asked her if there was anything she thought people ought to know about adoption.

"Babies are more important than other things," she said. "I just think you should love all your babies the most."

Then she did what she does best.

She said, "But I think you need to write about happy things in The Daily Advertiser."

And with that, she got off my lap and started singing a song she had composed on the spot.

Which led to dancing.

Which led to a full-blown performance and show, complete with bows and flourishes.

In short, she reminded me that although she and other internationally and domestically adopted children are representative of some of the world's major political, economic and social dilemmas, she is - first and foremost - just a kid.

A kid I happen to love with all my heart.

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China-Babies Research

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Number of Foreign adoptions from China fall

More Chinese couples have started to adopt Chinese babies, which may eventually bring an end to Americans adopting children from the country.
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

BEIJING — Chinese couples are adopting in growing numbers, a trend that could eventually sever the pipeline that has sent up to 75,000 Chinese orphans, mostly girls, to new homes in the USA since 1992.
Researchers in China say local data and anecdotal evidence show what sketchy national statistics don't: that record numbers of Chinese are adopting.

Foreign adoptions are an embarrassment to the government, says Pi Yijun, a scholar at the China University of Politics and Law. "Even researchers do not get the national figures, only local numbers. (The government) strictly controls data like this, and the total number of adoptions is very secret."

NEW TREND: China shedding adoption stigma, may tighten rules

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, which oversees adoptions, confirms that foreign adoptions peaked in 2005 and are declining.

"It is partly because there are less children who (are abandoned and) can be adopted, and partly because the volume of domestic adoptions has risen," says Wang Suying, a ministry official.

The surge in domestic adoptions coincides with tighter rules for Americans and other foreigners looking to adopt Chinese children.

In May, China moved to disqualify foreign applicants who are single, overweight or older than 50. At the same time, the backlog of foreign applications in Beijing has grown to more than two years and prompted some to pull out.

Some Americans "are moving to other options or deciding that adoption wasn't in the cards for them," says Joni Garner, mother of two adopted Chinese girls and case manager for AAC Adoption and Family Network in Berthoud, Colo.

Why Chinese are adopting:

•Growing affluence: As many as 250 million of China's 1.3 billion people are part of a growing middle class. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says 40% of Chinese will be middle class by 2020.

"Better economic conditions mean more Chinese are able to bear the financial burden," says Ji Gang, director of domestic adoptions at the China Center of Adoption Affairs, a government agency.

•Changing attitudes: Deep-rooted prejudices against taking in children who aren't blood relatives have begun to fade, as have historic biases against girls.

"The importance of continuing the family line is eroding as China modernizes," says Hung Huang, a Beijing publisher who adopted a girl last year. "Traditionally, Chinese felt that orphans signaled shame."

•Empty nesters: Urban couples, restricted to a single child by a 3-decade-old law, are adopting after their natural children reach adulthood and leave home.

"People want to have more than one child but cannot under the family-planning policy," Ji says. "Adopting or fostering gives them a way."

Booming interest in domestic adoptions has given rise to a loosely regulated market for infants. Websites such as Orphan Net offer forums for prospective parents.

Wang Hongbin, a lighting salesman in eastern Anhui province, says he and his wife posted an ad for a daughter on Orphan Net after unsuccessful fertility treatments.

He says they are willing to pay up to $1,400 to adopt a healthy child — a huge sum in a country where the government puts the average annual wage at $2,296.

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China-Babies Research

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sandi and Hannah - Lansing Journal

Red tape cut, Lansing mom to return home with daughter
Adoption complicated by husband's death in China

Mike Hughes
Lansing State Journal

A Lansing woman's bureaucratic tangle has been resolved.

Sandi Sheldon is expected home from China today with her new daughter, Hannah, and the cremated remains of her husband, Dennis.

U.S. officials held up Hannah's visa for several days after Dennis Sheldon died while in China. But pressure from the public and congressional leaders forced the government to expedite the process.

"Everyone has been on the phone to make this happen," said Darlene Hill, Sandi Sheldon's mother.

That included the adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, and the offices of U.S. representatives Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids.

"We've dealt with a number of complicated issues involving immigration," said Sylvia Warner, Rogers' spokeswoman. "But never one this complicated - or this heart-rending."

Dennis Sheldon, 46, was head custodian at Pleasant View Elementary Magnet School in Lansing and was a natural for parenthood, said the school's principal, Madeline Shanahan.

"There were a number of children ... he went to extra trouble to bond with," she said. "He was absolutely thrilled when the adoption came through."

The school staff surprised him shortly before the couple left for China with a breakfast and an all-diapers baby shower. On Oct. 30, the Sheldons went to Guangzhou (formerly Canton), finalizing their adoption of Hannah, who is about 18 months old.

Dennis Sheldon died there. Hill said he died Nov. 12 apparently from heart failure, possibly aggravated by diabetes.

The complication that delayed Sandi Sheldon's return to the United States came from the U.S. Citizen Immigration Service, said John VanValkenburg of Bethany.

Hannah's papers were no longer accurate, he said, because they listed both Sandi and Dennis. "In a situation where circumstances change, that requires a change in everything else."

Friends and other adoptive parents flooded officials with phone calls. Rogers' office worked with the Immigration Service.

"We were able to persuade them to expedite the process," Warner said.

Late Thursday night, there was word that it soon would be worked out. Hill received news shortly after midnight that her daughter was coming home; Rogers received an official fax at about 4 a.m.

During that time, Hill said, false rumors developed. There were no complications from Chinese officials, and the cremation was not required.

"That was something that Dennis and Sandi always said they wanted," Hill said.

Dennis and Sandi Sheldon were married for 19 years, and Hannah is their first child, said Hill, who lives in Lansing with her husband, Herbert, and is now the grandmother of 13 children.

Sandi, 42, works part time at a Wal-Mart store, and Hill granted that money could be tight. Donations may be sent by check to Hope For Hannah, Fifth Third Bank, 6446 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI 48911.

Contact Mike Hughes at 377-1156 or

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sandi and Hannah Cleared to Come Home

Lansing woman OK'd to return home with adopted Chinese daughter
By JAMES PRICHARD | Associated Press Writer
2:39 PM CST, November 16, 2007

A woman whose husband unexpectedly died in China while they were there to pick up their newly adopted daughter is expected to return home Saturday with the child, a spokeswoman for a Michigan congressman says.

Sylvia Warner said Friday that Sandi and Dennis Sheldon of Lansing, Mich., left for China on Oct. 30 to get the 17-month-old girl, whom they named Hannah. They originally had planned to return home this Saturday.

But only days after the adoption process was completed, Dennis Sheldon suddenly died. The family was told that he apparently suffered heart failure, said Darlene Hill, Sandi Sheldon's mother.

Because the family's status had changed and Sandi Sheldon had become a single mother, the U.S. consulate in China told her that she could not leave that country with the toddler until new family-status paperwork had been filed. The process normally takes weeks.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and his staff learned of the situation on Thursday, when they were inundated with e-mails and more than 500 telephone calls from an online adoption community that knew what was happening.

The authors of several adoption Web logs that were following the situation posted telephone numbers for the offices of Rogers, other elected officials and various government agencies, encouraging readers to ask them for help.

Rogers, a Brighton Republican, called the consulate late that evening -- first thing in the morning in China -- and worked out a resolution that involved fast-tracking the filing of the proper paperwork.

"Through the congressman's call to them and that ensuing discussion, they were able to move the process along," said Warner, his spokeswoman.

Rogers' office was notified around 4 a.m. Friday that Sheldon, who had been staying in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, was cleared to return home with her daughter, Warner said.

Dennis and Sandi Sheldon were married for 19 years and Hannah is their first child, said Hill, who lives in Lansing with her husband, Herbert, and is now the grandmother of 13 children. Sandi, 42, works part time at a Wal-Mart store and Dennis, 46, was a custodian for Lansing Public Schools.

Hill said family members, while still grieving their loss, were excited to learn that Hannah will accompany her new mother home.

"We got that news about 12:30 last night," Hill said Friday. "It's the best telephone call we've had in two weeks."

The Sheldons applied to adopt a child from China through Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Bethany Christian Services, one of the nation's largest adoption agencies. The process usually takes two to two-and-a-half years, said John Van Valkenburg, a Bethany spokesman.

He called the pending homecoming a "bittersweet time" for the Sheldon family.

"We are very ecstatic that both mother and daughter are able to return home and join the rest of the family," Van Valkenburg said. "At the same time, our hearts and prayers go out to them for the loss of a father, husband and son."

Dennis Sheldon's body was cremated in China and his ashes were returning home with his widow, Hill said. A memorial service for him will take place Nov. 30 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Lansing.,1,4153401.story

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