Facts on Adoption in China

Last week I posted a link to an opinion article from the New York Times entitled The Mystery of China’s Orphans.  From this article, I gained facts on the adoption situation between the United States and China in 2006 (article printed February 1, 2007). I recently discovered another article also from the New York Times entitled China Tightens Adoption Rules For Foreigners.  These two articles have clarified what the qualifications are for an American to adopt a Chinese child and the how these qualifications have recently changed.


Recently, China has been the number one source of foreign adoptions by Americans.  In the fiscal year of 2006, “the State Department adoptiongranted 6,493 visas to Chinese orphans” (Belluck & Yardley, NYT 2006). This is actually a decline from 2005 when 7,906 orphans were adopted (Russell, NYT 2007).  The high number of adoptions has resulted in changes to the qualifications to adopt in the attempt to decrease the number of parent applicants.  The new regulations were set by the government-run China Center of Adoption Affairs and took effect May 1, 2007.

American adoption agencies were told by Chinese officials that the number of American applicants outnumbered the amount of Chinese orphans.  The Chinese government does not publish any information on the number of orphans or the number of foreign adoptions.   The arguably most apparent cause for orphans in China is the One Child Policy Rule initiated in 1979.  The abandonment of children due to this policy is a taboo subject in China and is often not acknowledged.  Some argue that the new regulations were set to improve the world’s perception of China before the 2008 Olympics took place in Beijing.

New Regulations

The following are the regulations for foreigners to adopt Chinese orphans after May 1, 2007:

  • Body mass index less than 40
  • 50 years old and younger
  • No criminal record
  • (At least) High school diploma
  • Free of certain health problems such as HIV/AIDS or cancer
  • Free of certain mental health problems such as depression or anxiety
  • Must be a married couple: married for at least two years, no more than two divorces between the couple. If either spouse was previously divorced, the couple cannot apply until they have been married for at least five years (Belluck & Yardley).
  • Couple must have a net worth of $80,000
  • Income of at least $10,000 per person including the prospective adoptive child
  • If the prospective adoptive child has special needs, the couple can be as old as 55

Reactions to the New Regulations

These limitations has caused a lot of frustration to couples who were hoping to apply for adoption.  The required 5 years of marriage for previously divorced couples affects the age requirement of under 50 since couples tend to be older by their second marriage.  The requirements on mental and physical health has caused couples who are obese or suffering from depression or anxiety (all of which are quite common in the U.S.) to be disqualified.  The monetary requirements are not much of a shock since adoption agencies publicize an estimate of $15,000 to adopt from China (Belluck & Yardley).

The Chinese government maintains that these regulations were constructed to ensure a healthy and economically stable home for Chinese orphans.