Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rural Chinese children and foreign adoptions

I recently watched a documentary film named “China’s Lost Girls”. The documentary was filmed in 2005, a special year in the adoption history of China. In this peak year, the number of Chinese children adopted by American families reached over 7900, meaning one out of every three children adopted in the U.S. was from China.

The film showed many American couples who came to China to adopt Chinese children. Many parents saw China for adoptions. Its population-control policy, which limited many families to one child, drove couples to abandon subsequent children or to give up daughters in hopes of bearing sons to inherit their property and take care of them in old age. China had what adoptive parents in America wanted: a supply of healthy children in need of families.

 News reported in 2011 said that at least 16 children were seized by family planning officials between 1999 and late 2006 in Longhui County, an impoverished rural area in the southern Chinese province of Hunan.The family planning officials sent these children to orphanages where the children adopted by foreign families. This became a scandal in the adoption world,especially for those families who have adopted children from China.For some, it raised a nightmarish question: What if my child had been taken forcibly from her parents? Many reports exposed the dark side of overseas adoption and as result, children in rural China have not only been the target of illegal foreign adoptions, but also kidnapping and sexual assaults or harassment.

The number of adoptions from China declined to 2306 in 2013. The rising standard of living, sex-selective abortion, and the rollback of one child policy in most rural places, meant that fewer families were abandoning healthy babies. But the main reason for the decline was Chinese government 's implementation and enforcement of restrictions on foreign adoptions in 2006. Family that wanted to adopt a child from China had to meet many qualifications, such as (1) having a net worth of at least $80,000; (2) having a minimum household income of $30,000, or $10,000 per person living in the home; (3) waiting 12-24 months before a suitable child is found. Usually, the adoption process of a Chinese child costs on average around $31,000.

The restrictions above might prevent foreign adoptions from being seen as the trafficking of rural children. But the most dangerous situation for those children in rural areas is the lack protection and guidance from their parents, especially the so called “left-behind kids.” In the case of Hunan I mentioned in paragraph 3, most of those 16 children who were seized by family planning officials in Hunan were "left-behind kids". They lived in villages with their grandparents or older relatives while their parents were working in cities. Because of the registered household system and the high daily expenses, children could not go to the schools in cities. They lived in the villages with their grand parents who were not educated. When their grandparents were out farming,children often stay at home alone.Around 30 million children under 18 have no parent at home and two million fend for themselves with no adult guardian. These families only reunite a few days each year, usually during the Spring Festival.

China has been recruiting more social workers to provide counseling for the children left behind  in rural areas, according to 2013 figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) government spending on social services rose an average of 24% from 2008 to 2012. In addition, earlier this year the government loosed the household restriction on education and established schools for the children of migrant workers. More and more migrant workers choose to bring their children together to cities where they work. The love and guidance from parents are some of the most important things for rural children and their development.


Damon Alimouri said...

Very informative article. I have heard several stories of kidnap and sex slavery in rural China.

These stories lead me to wonder whether China's one-child policy is still beneficial to the Chinese populace.

Personally, I am a supporter of the one-child policy. I believe that one of Mao's goals by establishing this policy was to combat the social "backwardness" of rural China.

In other words, it was one of many attempts to resolve what Marx would call "the contradiction between town and country."

It is quite sad that the Communist Party was incapable of ultimately destroying the system of patriarchy that compels many Chinese to desire sons and only sons...

Charlie said...

I've always been curious about China's one-child policy. I have some questions that I hope you can answer for me. What happens if a couple has more than one child? Does a couple have to give up the second child, or are abortions mandatory? Maybe China should increase its cap to two or three children, so that there would be a decrease in sex-selective abortions or forced adoptions.

Xiaodan Wang said...

@Damon Alimouri Thank you for your comment.

I agree with you that the motivation of bringing one-child policy was something positive and it was truly beneficial to Chinese populace and economy in the past.

But a lot of social problems and human rights abuses caused by this policy.This policy has played deformed roles in Chinese people's lives. During the strict period, the implementation effect of this policy was the only decisive factor in local government's performance. I couldn't tell if this policy is still beneficial to China or not but I really think the loosening one-child policy will benefit the society. To some extend,the situation has changed now,and many family can have two children if one of the parents is from a one-child family.

About many Chinese’s desire to have sons you said.Although it was some kind the result of the system of patriarchy from traditional culture,but I don’t think they only want boys.They need boys who can help with heavy works but they also want girls.In Chinese characters,good(好)means having a girl(女)and a boy(男).Families want boys as well as girls.Strict punishment pushed them making a choice between girl and boy,although I feel sad about that but sometimes I can understand the compelled decisions they made.

Damon Alimouri said...

@ Xiaodan Wang:

I appreciate your response.

Question: Isn't the practice of desiring a boy also very popular in urban China? I believe so. Urban life does not require the hard, manual labor that rural life does, which may have compelled many rural Chinese parents to desire boys.

So why does the trend persist in urban areas? I have heard that it is so bad that many young Chinese men travel to other parts of the world, like Russia and Africa, in search of wives, because women are so relatively scarce in China.

Xiaodan Wang said...

@Charlie Thank you so much for your comment. I would like to answer this question based on my family's experience. Both of my parents were communists and worked for the local government in a small city in China. They had two children,my younger brother and I.When my mom was pregnant with the second baby in 1992,my family kept this secret carefully.

At that time in my hometown, if the people of family planning found someone on the street was pregnant and without a birth permit with her,they would catch her and call her family bring the birth permit to the family planning office. One couple got only one birth permit according the one child policy. So that many women who could not provide the birth permit were implemented abortions in the family planning office. At first, my mom had to wear big clothes so that no one could find she was pregnant. But few months later,she couldn't hide her belly under the clothes. So she stayed home everyday before gave birth to my little brother. My parents paid a large amount of fine as punishment. And having a second baby means that both of them could not get promotion in the government forever. Compared with other couples,they were lucky because it was common that the couple would loose their jobs if they got a second baby. I asked my parents your question about "What happens if a couple has more than one child?" They smiling and said " They were happier than before." haha ~~I really like this answer!